Hot Hoops hammer Struggling Hibs

CELTIC fans sang about jelly and ice cream while their team made mincemeat of Hibs.

Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper scored first-half goals to make the home side fear the worst.

Charlie Mulgrew, Hooper and Ki Sung-Yeung added others after the break to confirm Hibs’ darkest suspicions about how their day was going to end.

It was Celtic’s 15th consecutive league win and their 18th successive victory in all domestic competitions but who’s counting any more?

The title gap between Celtic and Rangers has been stretched to 17 points and could climb to a vaguely farcical 23 by the time the Ibrox club play their next game.

Hibs remain joint bottom with Dunfermline and can only be thankful it won’t be teams like Celtic who’ll stand between them and SPL survival.

The closest the home team came to making a fight of it was when their manager Pat Fenlon and Hoops coach Alan Thompson clashed on the touchline over an incident involving Stokes and Matt Doherty.

But Celtic’s superiority all over the park was too much for Hibs fans who deserted in their droves before an hour had been played, leaving their ground to the supporters of the other side who’d taken it over for a party.

Neil Lennon’s team had been set a test of motivation in their first competitive match after Rangers entered administration.

It was all party hats and streamers for the away fans as the Celtic support came to Edinburgh with serious celebration in mind. The trouble with eagerly-awaited occasions is they can have a nasty habit of falling flat on their face.

But the capital has a bracing effect on Celtic, as their last visit to Hearts’ end of the city proved.

The three-goal burst that destroyed the Tynecastle side before half-time less than two weeks earlier didn’t look likely to be repeated until Stokes awakened his team with an opportunist goal after 13 minutes.

An inswinging corner kick from Charlie Mulgrew found Stokes racing in to meet it with a header inside the six-yard box that easily beat Graham Stack.

That defensive laxity was even more evident when Stokes combined with Hooper to make it 2-0 only seven minutes later.

Hooper’s long diagonal pass found the Irishman in acres of space and his return ball to his striking partner was unable to be cut out by a defence that was stretched and lacking awareness. Hooper punished Hibs’ shortcomings with a finely-executed finish.

The opening to the match again highlighted Lennon’s ability to find the right team to fit the demands of any given fixture.

Stokes, the scorer and creator, had taken the place of Georgios Samaras in the midst of the Greek’s most productive run of games for Celtic.

Thomas Rogne replaced Daniel Majstorovic in central defence as the only other change from Celtic’s previous match against Inverness. But even when Rogne was posted missing the home side couldn’t
cash in.

A long hopeful ball in the direction of Hibs’ Lewis Stevenson was met with a weak response from Adam Matthews, the last man in front of his keeper Fraser Forster.

But when Stevenson had a gift of a chance to reduce the leeway he shot timidly into Forster’s arms.

Celtic were denied a third goal before half-time when referee Craig Thomson turned down a strong claim for a penalty.

Stokes dragged the ball back and was impeded by James McPake. It seemed a straightforward call but the official was unimpressed.

The pattern to the game was well established by then and Stack made a good save from Scott Brown to keep the score respectable.

Brown was relishing his return to his first club and resisting the attempts to make him lapse back his former ways as a hothead.

He was eventually booked for a trip on Isaiah Osbourne but only after enduring much winding up.

Former Rangers signing target Jorge Claros was warned for his provocation, while Leigh Griffiths was yellow-carded for dumping the Celtic captain on his backside.

Hibs got a kick in an identical area in the first minute of the second half when Mulgrew scored Celtic’s third goal from a free-kick.

Hooper was brought down on the edge of the box and the ball was netbound from the second it left Mulgrew’s left foot.

Celtic were almost incapable of doing anything wrong and seem intent on making an irrelevance of Rangers’ 10-point penalty.

But Hibs’ meek compliance was taken to ridiculous lengths when Hooper got the fourth goal six minutes after the restart.

The Englishman’s shot from outside the box was struck more in hope than expectation but Stack somehow contrived to let it go across his body and into the net with only a weak attempt at a parry.

Hooper had the decency to look mildly embarrassed.

Otherwise Celtic show no inclination towards humility or clemency. The rout was completed when Ki toepoked an attempted shot from fellow sub Kris Commons past Stack with 14 minutes left.

By then there were more Hibs fans outside the ground then inside. This is how the SPL would look if there wasn’t a Rangers, which is the Celtic fans’ wish, but they can’t honestly believe they’d pay to watch it year in year out.