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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 16:35 GMT
Battling Hibs hold Celtic
Garry O'Connor scores at Easter Road
Garry O'Connor shot Hibernian into a first half lead
Hibernian 1-1 Celtic

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Hibs are still searching for the first league win since October after a rousing draw with Celtic at Easter Road.

However, if the Edinburgh side continued to show the same commitment and spirit as they did against the champions then that ellusive victory cannot be too far away.

Both sides were under strength but served up an entertaining match for the 12,313 crowd.

Teenager Garry O'Connor fired Hibs in front in the first half with his first senior goal, but a John Hartson header early in the second period ensured the points were shared.

With Stilian Petrov, Joos Valgaeren and Jackie McNamara joining Chris Sutton on the injured list and Alan Thompson, suspended, Celtic's resources were stretched.

Neil Lennon feels the bite of Ulises de la Cruz
Lubo Moravcik and young duo Jamie Smith and Stephen Crainey, who has recovered from an ankle injury, came into the side while long-term absentee Didier Agathe was named among the substitutes.

Hibernian manager Franck Sauzee was also reeling from a long injury and suspension problem with eight first-team stars sidelined.

The Frenchman made three changes from the side which lost to Rangers in the Scottish Cup with Ulrik Laursen, Mathias Jack and Eduardo Hurtado out.

Into the side came on-loan signing from Newcastle United Gary Caldwell, O'Connor and Jarkko Wiss, who was making his first start since signing from Stockport County.

Hibs made a bright start with Ulises de la Cruz making a series of blistering surges down the right flank.

The tackles were flying in at a furious rate as the home side knocked the champions out of their normally assured stride.

Hibs were moving the ball around well and enjoying the bulk of possession and their endevour was rewarded after 22 minutes when they took the lead.

Grant Brebner and Lubo Moravcik
Grant Brebner's free kick was sent long into the box and, with Hartson and Paul Fenwick grappling, the ball dropped kindly to O'Connor, who drove a well-timed volley home from 15 yards.

Wiss then warmed the fingers of Celtic keeper Robert Douglas with a powerful strike from 25 yards out.

Play continued to snap and snarl and, with tempers simmering, Bobo Balde was lucky to escape punishment when he floored Fenwick with his forearm.

Henrik Larsson almost drew Celtic level at the stroke of half time but his close range header from Moravcik's corner whistled over the crossbar.

The second period began at the same whirlwind pace and twice Paco Luna had good chances to increase the home side's lead.

Douglas did well to beat away an attempted chip when one-on-one with the forward and the Spaniard found the side netting from a tight angle a few minutes later.

O'Connor challenges Stephen Crainey
Hibs were punished for not making the most of those opportunities when Hartson equalised with a simple header in the 50th minute.

Gary Smith was slack with a pass out of defence and Moravcik found the big Welshman lurking unmarked at the back post.

A Caldwell slip was pounced on by Larsson in the 65th minute, but the in-form Swede failed to get the power to beat Nick Colgan.

The Irish keeper had to look smart at his near post to block a sharp shot on the turn from Hartson as Celtic began to take a grip of proceedings.

Hibs ran out of puff in the closing stages but held out for a deserved share of the spoils.

Hibernian: Colgan, Smith, Fenwick, Caldwell, De la Cruz, Brebner, Wiss, Townsley (Andrews 66), Murray, O'Connor (Riordan 71), Luna (Zitelli 87).

Subs Not Used: Caig, Mark Dempsie.

Booked: Wiss, Murray.

Celtic: Douglas, Balde, Mjallby, Crainey, Smith, Moravcik (Guppy 76), Lennon, Lambert, Petta (Maloney 76), Larsson, Hartson.

Subs Not Used: Gould, Sylla, Agathe.

Booked: Crainey, Moravcik, Mjallby.

Attendance: 12,313

Referee: A Freeland

BBC Scotland's Alastair Alexander
"The champions elect halted in their tracks at Easter Road"
Hibs manager Franck Sauzee
"I'm pleased with the result, but I'm proud as well"
Celtic manager Martin O'Neill
"It was a hard-fought game... we gave it absolutely everything"
Hibs captain Grant Brebner
"We could have put the game beyond doubt"
Links to more Scot Prem stories are at the foot of the page.


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