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Celtic beat 10-man Hibernian on Sunday night in an exciting match that went all the way to extra time. Both sides had good spells, and either could’ve walked away with the victory. A defensive error from either side gave both sides a goal, and a goal from Joseph Chalmers looked like putting the visitors through. Daniel Handling equalised with five minutes left to push the game to extra time where a red card helped Celtic find the winning goal less than two minutes from penalty kicks. An exciting cup encounter that puts U20 league leaders Celtic through to the quarter-finals.
Hibs were unbeaten in three league games prior to this, with their only defeat in a month coming at Tynecastle to Edinburgh rivals Hearts. Hibs’ last home defeat came on the 2nd of October to Dundee United. Celtic were the visitors to Easter Road four days after their 2-1 away defeat to Sporting Lisbon in the NextGen Series and are top of the SPL U20 league table, with two games in hand over fourth-placed Hibs. A good game was in prospect at Easter Road, with both teams aiming to mount challenges on the Scottish FA Youth Cup.
The game started slowly, with Celtic pressing the Hibs defence, winning the ball well and dominating possession. A ball over the top to Celtic’s John Herron was cut out early on by Paul Grant in the Hibernian goal, and it looked like the visitors were settling into an early control. Michael Miller was tackling well in the midfield for Celtic, and not letting the Hibernian forwards have enough time to trouble the defence. Hibs were defending well too, with Sam Stanton using the ball smartly when Hibs had it, and breaking the Celtic build-up without it.
The first goal went to Celtic, and came in the 12th minute from a free-kick just outside the Hibernian box. Celtic full back Joseph Chalmers put a dangerous ball into the Hibernian six yard box between the goalkeeper and the defenders. John Herron got the last touch, but it was sloppy defending from Hibs.
The goal seemed to wake Hibs up, with Sam Stanton tackling well in midfield and getting attacks started, but a resolute defensive performance from Stuart Findlay and Marcus Fraser in the centre of the Celtic defence kept the home side at bay. Celtic’s main outlet was through Bahrudin Atajic and Darnell Fisher on the right hand-side. Atajic and Herron also combined well to create chances, but none of them troubled Paul Grant in the Hibs goal.
Hibs grew into the game towards the end of the first half, creating some good chances through Daniel Handling and Ross Caldwell, but their final ball was often cut out well. The equaliser eventually came from a hopeful ball driven over the top of the Celtic defence, which Jamie Lindsay gave back to his goalkeeper. Glenn Daniels couldn’t reach the back pass and it trickled into the net. It was an unfortunate way to concede, but the pressure from Hibs deserved a goal.
From that point in the first half, Hibernian were the better team. Chances from Ross Caldwell, Daniel Handling and Alex Harris were defended by Celtic who would’ve been much happier than the home side to hear to the half time whistle.
Half Time: Hibernian FC 1-1 Celtic FC
The second half started as the last ended, with Hibs putting on the majority of the pressure. The build-up play from the midfield worked well and the shorter passing was having a bigger impact than the longer passes out of defence. Dean Horribine had a shot from outside the box go just wide, and a Sam Stanton free kick was headed just past the post. Euan Smith and Ross Caldwell also combined well to work the ball into the box, but it was cleared by the Celtic defence.
Celtic brought on Paul George for Jamie Lindsay who started to cause problems for the Hibs defence. His trickery and energetic play added another dimension to Celtic, who had struggled in the second half so far.
Celtic took the lead in the 76th minute after a Bahrudin Atajic corner was nodded home by Joseph Chalmers at the near post. Chalmers had a good run on the ball and used his height and strength to flick the ball past Paul Grant in the Hibernian goal. Celtic were ahead with less than fifteen minutes to play. Chalmers had another great chance after he was put through by Paul George who beat his man easily. Chalmers’ shot was well blocked but would’ve troubled the Hibs ‘keeper.
Celtic looked to be back in the ascendancy before Alex Harris ran down the right wing and crossed for substitute Jay Doyle. His shot was cleared as far as Daniel Handling who struck hard and low into the bottom right corner of the Celtic goal, evening the score for the home side with less than five minutes to go. The home side had a last-minute chance to snatch victory when a throw fell to Dean Horribine in the box, who couldn’t hit the target.
Full Time: Hibernian 2-2 Celtic
Extra time started slowly, with tired legs starting to set in. Neither side wanted to concede. Hibernian had a chance with Dean Horribine down the left side crossing for Jay Doyle, who couldn’t get underneath the ball. Celtic also had some good chances, with Joseph Chalmers crossing to Denny Johnstone and Chalmers’ free kick going over the bar.
Hibs had a man sent off towards the end of the first period of extra time when Dean Horribine took the Celtic player’s legs from beneath him. Hibernian had a corner, when the ball was cleared upfield to a Celtic attacker. If not for the challenge, Celtic would’ve been two-on-two against the Hibs defenders.
Hibs resigned themselves to hitting Celtic on the counter, who began to pile on the pressure. Denny Johnston had a shot parried by the goalkeeper, Bahrudin Atajic and Paul George had shots and there was a period of sustained pressure from Celtic. They won it two minutes from penalties when Darnell Fisher and Bahrudin Atajic combined to feed Denny Johnstone whose calm finish beat the Hibs goalkeeper. Celtic played down the clock professionally and took the victory over a tough Hibernian side.
Final Result: Hibernian 2-3 Celtic
Hibs were the better team for a fair portion of the game and the red card changed the complexion of the game. Celtic started to pressure even before Hibs were down to ten men, but it’s impossible to tell what would have happened if Hibs had had eleven men on the pitch.
A hard-fought contest with some real quality shown all over the pitch. Hibernian will be happy with their performance, although not with the result. There are lots of positives that Hibs can take away from this game, not least a great fight against a Celtic team who were clear favourites before the game.