Scott Brown bucked a trend where Hibernian could not. Plenty of illustrious names fill the list of past Celtic captains, few of whom have been the subject of as much discussion as Brown. One of the general criticisms of the midfielder – and there are many – is that he fails to return the number of goals which his marauding style suggests he should.
As Brown collected an Anthony Stokes pass, 18 yards from the Hibs goal, few would have banked on the superb, half-volleyed finish which followed. Brown found the net only once for Celtic in the whole of last season, meaning that, in this era when bets can be placed on almost every aspect of football, the option of "First goalscorer: Scott Brown" isn't the subject of much interest.
That goal set the tone for Hibs' latest profitless afternoon. John Hughes has now presided over a record which shows just four wins in the Edinburgh club's last 27 outings. Hibs don't face opposition of this quality every week, but their lack of confidence was apparent in concerted spells; a 1-0 loss, it seemed, would have been regarded as a good result.
Amid a malaise, which has apparently manifested itself in performances, Hughes arrived in Glasgow's East End under increasing pressure. His only hope of salvation here had arrived from a moment of Derek Riordan magic, which flew completely in the face of what had gone before.
This was a curious affair, littered with misplaced passes and inexplicable edginess. Celtic maintained their flawless Scottish Premier League touch, and placed pressure on Rangers as they head to Aberdeen tomorrow lunchtime, but returned by far their poorest domestic showing of the campaign thus far.
If there was a problem with Brown's goal, it was that it arrived too early to allow this game to develop into a contest. The remainder of the opening half was mind-numbingly tame with Celtic relaxed – partly understandably – about the safety of their lead.
Such an approach does not sit well with Neil Lennon. Celtic's manager is keen to see a high tempo maintained throughout matches, a message he would have pressed home during the interval.
The hosts therefore opened the second period with renewed vigour and, in doing so, claimed the goal which should have settled the contest. Glenn Loovens stooped to head home a Shaun Maloney corner, with the desperate actions of John Rankin on the Hibs goalline not suffice to prevent Celtic from doubling their lead.
Riordan's retort was as audacious as it was totally unlikely. Hibs' lone striker collected an Edwin de Graaf pass before lobbing Fraser Forster – all 6ft 7in of him – from 20 yards. The Celtic goalkeeper could point to one mitigating circumstance: shock at actually seeing the ball anywhere near him.
Celtic's play regressed into scrappy, wasteful stuff thereafter. Maloney, Lennon's most influential attacking threat of the season's opening weeks, was peripheral. Composure elsewhere was in similarly short supply.
Yet a Stokes cross narrowly evaded the diving Georgios Samaras , who had been introduced in an attempt to liven up Celtic's approach. Efraín Juárez came even closer to rounding off the encounter, the Mexican midfielder heading a Cha Du-Ri cross against the Hibs crossbar.
Hughes, to his credit, made a tactical switch to 3-4-3 for the closing stages in an attempt to claim a point. Hibs struck late at this venue last season, after all, in winning one of the matches which precipitated Tony Mowbray's departure from his post as the Celtic manager.
There was no such denouement this time. Much to the relief of a blatantly under-par Celtic.
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