SPL - Champions-elect Celtic maul Hibs
First-half goals from ex-Hib Anthony Stokes and strike partner Gary Hooper paved the way for a comfortable second half in which the Glaswegians killed the game off.
Charlie Mulgrew’s beautiful free-kick came less than two minutes after the interval, while Hooper’s second and a fortuitous fifth courtesy of substitute Ki Sung-Yeung heaped further difficulty on Hibs' hopes of surviving the drop.
They are level on points with bottom side Dunfermline, with goal difference of -26 compared to the Pars' -30. Only one team goes down.
At the end of a week which began with Neil Lennon’s side four points ahead of Rangers, the drubbing meant their lead was more than quadrupled following the Gers' seven-day nightmare.
Celtic, knowing only a total collapse will deny them their first SPL title in four years following the 10-point deduction for their Old Firm rivals, almost went straight into the lead inside the opening minute.
Hooper was unable to connect properly with Stokes’ low cross from the left, however, and the Bhoys were unable to convert the ensuing pair of corner kicks.
Hibs recovered and looked comfortable in a number of spells of possession but they went behind in the 14th minute when Mulgrew’s third corner was poorly marked and headed home by Stokes.
It was Stokes’ fifth goal in his last five games up against his former club, and six minutes later the hosts were haunted further as the striker turned provider on the break.
Despite being outnumbered in the Hibs half, Stokes and Hooper retained possession amidst a quick exchange of passes before Hooper capped the move with a cool finish across Graham Stack.
Hibernian’s biggest chance of the half came on 23 minutes when an instant response to going two-down was almost found off a raking ball upfield, but Lewis Stevenson was unable to wriggle free of the defensive pressure and could only fire tamely straight at Fraser Forster in goal.
Soon after Isaiah Osborne almost teed up David Wotherspoon for another close call on the half-hour mark, Stokes was furious he was not awarded a penalty when he clearly appeared to be clipped by James McPake whilst pulling back inside the Hibs area.
Any hopes of home manager Pat Fenlon’s half-time team talk revitalising the struggling Hibees were put out of their misery almost instantly as the second half got underway.
When Celtic won a free-kick just outside the penalty area, there was only going to be one man at the front of the queue to take it and Mulgrew did not disappoint, finding the inside of the far post perfectly with his curling drive.
Stokes was denied a brace just minutes later by Stack’s great point-blank save following Hooper’s clever back-heel, and it would be the former Grays striker who would double his in-game tally, rather than his fellow forward.
That goal came on 53 minutes, and triggered an almost-apologetic celebration from Hooper when his cross-cum-shot slipped through the fingers of Stack and into the far corner in a move which summed up the home side’s afternoon.
The carnage was concluded 13 minutes from time with a goal which added insult to injury for the rapidly-diminishing numbers in the Easter Road home stands, when Kris Commons’ angled effort came off fellow replacement Ki and wrong-footed Stack, who appeared to have the original shot covered.