Hibernian 0 Celtic 5: Hooper bags double as SPL leaders run riot
Gary Hooper's double helped Celtic go 17 points clear of administration-hit Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League as Neil Lennon's men hammered Hibernian at Easter Road.
Goals from Anthony Stokes and the former Scunthorpe striker gave the impressive visitors a commanding interval lead and there was no let-up from Celtic in the second half.
Hoops defender Charlie Mulgrew fired in a free-kick just after the break and Hooper grabbed his second before substitute Ki Sung-yueng added a fifth to extend the Parkhead side's winning domestic run to 18 games.
Five of the best: Celtic moved even further clear at the top of the table at Hibs
Hibernian: Stack, Doherty (Francomb 46), McPake, Hanlon, Kujabi, Claros, Osbourne, Stevenson, Wotherspoon, Griffiths (O'Donovan 73), Doyle (O'Connor 51).
Subs not used: Brown, O'Hanlon, Scott, Sproule.
Booked: Griffiths, Stevenson.
Celtic: Forster, Matthews, Kelvin Wilson, Rogne (Izaguirre 71), Mulgrew, Forrest, Wanyama (Ki 55), Brown, Ledley, Hooper (Commons 61), Stokes.
Subs not used: Zaluska, Majstorovic, Samaras, Brozek.
Goals: Stokes 14, Hooper 20, Mulgrew 47, Hooper 52, Ki 77.
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)
With such a commanding lead over
their Old Firm rivals, who look likely to get weaker by getting rid of
players in cost-cutting measures, the title is almost certainly in the
bag for Celtic.
Sorry Hibs, though, who were simply swept away, look set to continue their battle with Dunfermline to avoid the drop.
Lennon's growing reluctance to tinker too much with his side in recent weeks saw only two changes.
Defender Thomas Rogne returned from a
calf injury at the expense of Daniel Majstorovic while striker Stokes
came in for Georgios Samaras to partner Hooper, a move which was to
provide rich dividends.
Striker Leigh Griffiths and defenders
Paul Hanlon and James McPake returned from suspension for the Leithers
as Sean O'Hanlon, George Francomb and Garry O'Connor dropped to the
Hibs had kept a clean sheet in their
previous two home matches which gave them some confidence but the
travelling fans behind the goal were in party mood and anticipating a
There was less than a minute played
when Hibs keeper Graham Stack had to save from Hooper's close-range
flick after he had been set up by Stokes, with the home side forced to
defended a couple of early corners.
Loud and clear: Celtic fans make no secret of their joy at Rangers' plight
Hibs rallied but there was an
inevitability about the opener in the 14th minute which saw Stokes head
in Mulgrew's corner from the right without much interference from the
The second goal six minutes later
came from a quick Celtic break, Hooper playing the ball out to Stokes on
the left and then racing into the Hibs box to take the return pass and
shoot low past Stack from 10 yards.
Already it looked all too easy for the league leaders.
Hibees midfielder Lewis Stevenson,
though, had a good chance to bring the Easter Road men back into the
game when he dispossessed Celtic right-back Adam Matthews just outside
the box but he volleyed weakly straight at Hoops keeper Fraser Forster.
The home side kept at their task and
on the half-hour mark David Wotherspoon failed to connect with Isaiah
Osbourne's cross right in front of goal before Griffiths crossed from
the other side for Osbourne to head wide of the far post.
Proper Charlie: Mulgrew's shot hits the back of the net while Hooper bags his side's second (below)
Moments later, in another swift
Celtic break, Stokes went down after turning inside McPake, but referee
Craig Thomson ignored claims for a penalty.
Celtic threatened every time they
went forward and in the 37th minute midfielder Joe Ledley drove towards
the Hibs goal before driving over the bar, before Stack had to make a
save from Parkhead skipper Scott Brown who had been set up by Stokes.
Francomb replaced Matthew Doherty for
the start of the second half but Fenlon's switch was rendered almost
There was barely a minute played when
Hanlon fouled Hooper 20 yards from goal and Mulgrew curled in a
delightful left-footed free-kick to make it 3-0, although questions may
be asked about Stack's positioning.
Celtic were rampant and Stack had to
make a good block from Stokes after he had been played in by Hooper but
the fourth was on its way.
Net result: Stoke's makes it three for Celtic who edged even further clear at the top of the table
In the 52nd minute, when Hooper
flashed in a drive from the left-hand side of the box, Stack looked
favourite to save but the Hibs keeper watched in dismay as the ball
escaped his grasp and ended up in the corner of the net.
O'Connor had replaced Eoin Doyle before midfielders Ki and Kris Commons came on for Victor Wanyama and Hooper respectively.
As Celtic dropped down a gear
momentarily, Emilio Izaguirre replaced Rogne as Lennon took the
opportunity to give the left-back some much-needed match practice.
In the 77th minute Commons' wayward
shot from the left cannoned off Ki and behind Stack for number five
before Ledley saw a header come back off the bar following a Ki corner
as Celtic hunted more goals.
Celtic fans wanted six but will have
been satisfied with the result and a storming performance by a Parkhead
side who now look almost unstoppable in their quest to wrest the title
back from Ibrox.
Getting shirty: Celtic fans unfurl a replica shirt showing support for HMRC whose dispute with Rangers cost the club 10 points