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Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 14:44 UK

Celtic 2-0 Hibernian

By John Gibson

Stephen McManus and Barry Robson celebrate
Stephen McManus and Barry Robson celebrate the opening goal

Celtic re-established their four-point lead over Rangers at the top of the SPL after an exciting win over Hibernian.

Captain Stephen McManus headed Gordon Strachan's men in front on 36 minutes and Scott McDonald nodded in the second three minutes from time.

Hibs, who saw their Uefa Cup hopes die, had their woes compounded by red cards for Martin Canning and Ian Murray.

Celtic must wait and watch Rangers' two games in hand before both sides play their final league fixtures on 22 May.

Rangers, who face Zenit St Petersburg in the Uefa Cup final on Wednesday, face trips to Motherwell and St Mirren prior to the final fixtures which see Celtic at Dundee United and Rangers away again at Aberdeen.

But Celtic's great rivals might take at least some comfort in knowing that Motherwell will now have less to play for when they meet on 17 May, Hibernian's defeat meaning the Fir Park side have now secured Uefa Cup qualification along with Scottish Cup finalists Queen of the South for next season.

Celtic, whose fixture list is sparse in comparison, welcomed back McManus from injury for Hibs' visit, while Bobo Balde dropped to the bench and Mark Wilson came in for the injured Andreas Hinkel.

Hibernian manager Mixu Paatelainen made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Rangers last Sunday.

Midfielder Guillaume Beuzelin returned from suspension to replace Ross Chisholm while defender Chris Hogg came back for Kevin McCann who was out with a knee injury.

It was a nervy start from the home side. Keeper Boruc had to foil Ross Campbell by rushing from his goal before beating away Dean Shiels' shot for a corner.

Gary Caldwell surrendered possession just before the half-hour mark with a careless pass which was picked up by Filipe Morais. The ball eventually smuggled to Shiels at the back post but his shot was blocked by McManus.

It was the beginning of a poor passage of play by the home side, who took turns in giving up possession - much to the frustration of the Celtic support.

But that frustration was forgotten in the 36th minute when McManus towered above a clutch of players inside the Hibs six-yard box to power a Nakamura corner low past Andy McNeil.

In the 43rd minute, after Rob Jones had fouled McDonald 25 yards from goal, Nakamura beat Andy McNeil with his curling free-kick only to see the ball rebound off the post before it was cleared to safety.

Celtic should have doubled their lead within two minutes of the restart when, on the counter from another poor Hibs corner, Nakamura sent McDonald clear on goal.

The Australian rounded McNeil but his angled shot was blocked by Ian Murray, as was his second attempt from the rebound, and the Easter Road side were able to breath again - but only for a few moments.

Let The People Sing!

After Jones clattered Vennegoor of Hesselink 25 yards out, McNeil was forced into a fine save from another Nakamura free-kick which looked to be creeping in at the post.

Canning picked up a second booking and red card for Hibs after a robust challenge on Robson.

It got worse for the capital side on 87 minutes when Robson swung in a free kick, Caldwell flicked the ball on and McDonald headed home at the back post.

There was still time for Paatelainen's side to be reduced to nine men when Murray was sent off for a cynical challenge on Aiden McGeady.

But it had no impact on the scoreline as Celtic kept the pressure on title rivals Rangers.

Celtic: Boruc, Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Hartley, Robson, McGeady, McDonald (Sheridan 90), Vennegoor of Hesselink (Samaras 78). Subs: Mark Brown, Scott Brown, Balde, Caddis, Donati.

Booked: Nakamura, Hartley.

Goals: McManus 36, McDonald 87

Hibernian: McNeil, Hogg, Jones, Canning, Murray, Morais, Beuzelin, Rankin, Campbell (Donaldson 70), Shiels, Fletcher. Subs: Ma-Kalambay, Kerr, O'Brien, Gathuessi, Chisholm, Nish.

Booked: Hogg, Canning.

Sent off: Canning, Murray.

Referee: D McDonald

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Hibernian's Steven Fletcher 7.28 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Profligate Hibs pain Paatelainen
11 May 08 |  Hibernian
Sunday's SPL photos
11 May 08 |  Scotland

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