SPL - Celtic make winning start at Hibs

Sun, 24 Jul 17:19:00 2011

Neil Lennon's Celtic made an impressive start to the Scottish Premier League season as they outclassed Hibernian in a 2-0 victory at Easter Road.

SPL - Celtic make winning start

Anthony Stokes drove home the opening goal on 14 minutes from a tight angle after Hibernian goalkeeper Graham Stack had failed to collect a high looping free-kick from Kris Commons.

He dropped the ball and Stokes wasted little time in netting with a handful of home players perched on their own goal-line.

Celtic were the dominant force from that point onwards and added a second goal when Ki Sung-Yeung drove into the net on 63 minutes from 25 yards out with Stack failing to get down quickly enough to his left to nudge it behind the goal.

Stack made a brilliant stop from Gary Hooper's penalty on 68 minutes after Emilio Izaguirre had been felled by Ivan Sproule, but it was already damage limitation for the home side by that stage.

Colin Calderwood's Hibs huffed and puffed, but failed to force the Celtic goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska to make a save during a hot afternoon in which the Glasgow team hardly seemed to break sweat such was their command of the occasion.

New signing Kelvin Wilson was outstanding for Celtic at the heart of the visiting side's defence with Ki and Baram Kayal dominant in the midfield area as Lennon's men kept the ball at will against a youngish home side.

Celtic - who went 4-4-2 with Stokes partnering Hooper up front - also had a goal wrongly disallowed in the first period when captain Mark Wilson scored a perfectly legitimate goal only to see the assistant referee mysteriously raise his flag.

Hibernian started brightly enough with Kelvin Wilson forced to nod out of his own box under pressure from Garry O'Connor, who endured a disappointing day on his return to competitive action with the club where he made his name.

Losing the first goal seemed to visibly wind Hibernian. There was little joy for the home fans, but O'Connor should have scored when he failed to connect with Sproule's cross moments after Celtic had moved two goals ahead.

Sproule also looked likely to score when he dashed onto Callum Booth's pass on 51 minutes, but Kelvin Wilson exhibited his pace as he dashed back to make a timely intervention.

Oddly enough, Celtic have a raft of pre-season friendlies against Wolves, Internazionale, a League of Ireland select and Swansea City before their next SPL match at Aberdeen on August 7, but the nature of this win should be of some value in enhancing the mood of the squad.

They find themselves at the summit of the SPL standings alongside Motherwell on three points, two points clear of champions Rangers after their 1-1 home draw with Hearts on Saturday.

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