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Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009 14:59 UK

Hibernian 0-0 Celtic

By Colin Moffat

Celtic defender Gary Caldwell challenges Sol Bamba
Hibs defended stoutly as they repelled a series of Celtic attacks

Celtic handed the championship initiative back to Rangers as they failed to break down a stubborn Hibernian side at Easter Road.

The best chance of a tame first half fell to Hibs, with Steven Fletcher's overhead kick saved by Artur Boruc.

Celtic, who trail Rangers by two points with one game remaining, teemed forward after the break but could not find a way past a resolute defence.

Scott McDonald came closest with a low shot that Yves Ma-Kalambay blocked.

On the final day of the season Celtic are at home to Hearts, who have secured third place, while Rangers travel to Dundee United, who need a point to be sure of a Europa League place.

Celtic were camped in the Hibs half for long spells but the home side were set up solidly, with Ross Chisholm and Sol Bamba forming a formidable barrier in front of the back four.

For all of their possession, Celtic only had two glimpses of goal in the opening 30 minutes, with Georgios Samaras heading narrowly over from a corner and McDonald seeing a close-range effort deflected over by Steven Thicot.

Hibs were content to hit on the break but strikers Fletcher and Derek Riordan were often isolated, with little support coming from midfield.

However, Celtic keeper Boruc had to produce a fine save to keep out Fletcher's acrobatic scissor-kick on 22 minutes.

Celtic defender Gary Caldwell twice connected with headers inside the Hibs penalty area, with a combination of Bamba and Ma-Kalambay repelling the first effort and the second arrowing wide of the target.

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Right on the stroke of half-time Hibs were caught napping by a speculative long ball and McDonald drilled an angled effort wide across the face of goal.

Celtic made a purposeful start to the second period, laying siege to Ma-Kalambay's goal and there were muted claims for a penalty when McDonald's fierce shot struck Thicot's elbow.

Hibs survived the onslaught and another quick break saw Riordan gather a John Rankin pass on the edge of the penalty box only to shoot wide.

Riordan then latched on to an excellent first time pass from Fletcher but blazed over the crossbar from 20 yards.

Ma-Kalambay used every inch of his massive frame to get fingertips to a McGeady cross, with substitute Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink well placed to profit from a moment of hesitation from defender David van Zanten.

Aiden McGeady slalomed beyond several opponents and let fly with a shot that ricocheted off team-mate McDonald and went wide.

Vennegoor of Hesselink slipped a neat pass to McDonald but Ma-Kalambay got down swiftly to block the striker's low shot from 10 yards before the big Dutch forward headed over from similar range.

There was a scare for Ma-Kalambay when he spilled a cross under pressure from Vennegoor of Hesselink on 82 minutes but the impressive Rob Jones was on hand to scoop the ball clear, with Paul Hartley in close attendance.

A high, swerving corner from Shunsuke Nakamura then eluded everyone as Lee Naylor was inches away from connecting at the back post.

In extra time a powerful Nakamura drive was headed clear by Jones and the Edinburgh side held on to dent the visitors' title aspirations.


Hibernian manager Mixu Paatelainen:
"Rob was one individual out there among the other ones who was absolutely fantastic. A rock solid performance again, but he's been like that all season for us.

"There was togetherness and a team spirit and organisation out there.

"I thought defensively, everybody knew their job and did it, with no silly mistakes or lapses of concentration.

"That's why we kept a clean sheet against an excellent side.

"Offensively, we had a couple of chances, but unfortunately, we couldn't break the deadlock.

"Our plan was to win this game - defend solidly, and then hopefully take our chance when it came along.

"But, unfortunately, we didn't score."

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan:
"It was like a training session, where you have waves of attack and try and score.

"We didn't have enough opportunities to blow the goal difference right away. The way it stands now, Rangers have it in their own hands, and fair play to them.

"I knew we played well, there was some outstanding contributions, we did what we did and had chances.

"But looking back over the season, if you score enough goals, then it's not a problem.

"We've not had the magic this year, maybe we're not hungry enough in the box - maybe they'll come next week.

"If Rangers go to Tannadice next week and win, you've got to hold your hands up and say well done.

"But we'll play Hearts and give it our best shot."


Hibernian: Ma-Kalambay, van Zanten, Thicot, Jones, Murray, Rankin, Bamba (Hanlon 89), Chisholm, Stevenson, Riordan (O'Brien 90), Fletcher. Subs Not Used: McNeil, Keenan, McCormack, Cropley, Johansson.

Booked: Murray, Rankin, Ma-Kalambay, Bamba, Riordan.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, Loovens, Naylor, Nakamura, Scott Brown (Maloney 68), Hartley, McGeady, Samaras (Vennegoor of Hesselink 62), McDonald. Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, O'Dea, Crosas, Flood, Misun.

Booked: Scott Brown.

Att: 14,074

Ref: I Brines



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see also
Hibs v Celtic - as it happened
17 May 09 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
17 May 09 |  Scottish Premier


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