Over six years in the making, a first taste of victory for Brendan Rodgers at Easter Road came not a moment too soon. The manner in which it arrived last night was truly extraordinary.
As the 90 minute mark came up in Leith, it seemed as if Celtic would again be left to count the cost of their lack of cutting edge in front of goal.
Ahead through Adam Idah’s early penalty, the champions saw plenty of the ball but lacked guile when it truly mattered.
Second best throughout a flat first half, Hibs did as many other sides have recently done to Celtic. They upped their game and took advantage of the mental fragility that’s evident in Rodgers’ players at this moment.
Dylan Levitt’s wondrous strike had been in the post from the minute the visitors passed up a string of chances to put the issue too bed.
Adam Idah scored two penalties on his first Celtic start to secure win on Wednesday night
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If anything, Nick Montgomery’s side looked the most likely to win it in a frantic closing spell.
But one last dramatic twist right at the death ensured Celtic blew away the gathering storm clouds.
Kyogo Furuhashi had been introduced to the action in desperation. His dribble into the penalty box drew contact from Joe Newell that was not immediately apparent to referee Nick Walsh.
Alerted to the incident by VAR Andrew Dallas, a penalty was belatedly awarded. Idah repeated the trick from 12 yards. The sense of relief in the visiting end was palpable.
The slip-up at Pittodrie at the weekend was not to be followed by a bruising fall in Leith. At the fifth time of asking, Rodgers left this part of the world with the three points he came for.
This was a sore one for Hibs. They started poorly but worked their way into the contest and looked good for a point until Newell’s lazy leg cost them. A winless league runs now stretches back to December 9 against Livingston.
Freshly returned from Japan’s Asian Cup adventure, Daizen Maeda was thrown straight back in. Curiously, despite not being called up by his country, Furuhashi was benched with Idah handed his first start.
Nicolas Kuhn, Celtic’s other January signing, also started after an impressive scoring debut at Aberdeen.
Celtic forward slotted home the winner from the spot in stoppage time after a VAR review
Given Australia exited the tournament in Qatar a day earlier, there was little surprise that Nick Montgomery reintroduced Lewis Miller and Martin Boyle to his side.
If Celtic felt in any way burdened by the flak that had flown since the weekend, then they didn’t show it at the outset.
Dominating the ball from the first whistle, they penned Hibernian in, moving them from side to side, passing and probing and asking questions.
When the home side failed to deal with a free-kick into their box, panic set in. Far too eager to deal with the situation after Newell headed the ball into the night sky, Nectarios Triantis lost his cool completely. Second favourite to the high ball, his head thumped into Alistair Johnston’s after the Canadian had kept the situation alive.
After establishing that there was no advantage to be had, Walsh awarded a penalty.
For Idah, the six-minute wait to spot the ball must have felt like an age. That’s how long it took for Johnston to be stretchered off with Anthony Ralston brought on. Commendably, the Irishman calmly sent David Marshall the wrong way from 12 yards.
As the visitors celebrated, Triantis, who’d also conceded a penalty against St Mirren on Saturday, must have briefly wished he was back in Sunderland.
Celtic looked in the mood to get the job done early. Liam Scales’ incisive pass to Paulo Bernardo allowed the Portuguese to steady himself and take aim but he couldn’t hit the target from 20 yards.
Idah sent Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall the wrong way from the spot in the 10th minute
Bernardo looked to have turned provider when he clipped a clever ball round Triantis which Idah met. Marshall did just enough this time.
Despite being a goal down, Hibs were content to sit in and await their moments. There was precious few of them.
Jordan Obita looked the most likely source when he left his post and bounded down the left. He managed to advance far enough to deliver a cross which bobbled about the Celtic penalty box. Elie Youan got his shot away. Scales got the vital touch did to ensure the strike didn’t ball Joe Hart into action.
There was much to admire about the way Celtic kept the ball and stayed patient.. Again, however, gilt-edged chances proved hard to come by.
Bernardo almost found the second when he picked a pocket of pace in the box. His attempt to chip Marshall was highly ambitious.
The half-time whistle found Celtic in familiar territory. For all they were measurably the better side, they still had much work to do to nail down the three points.
The pattern continued after the turnaround. Scales didn’t get enough purchase on a header and Marshall watched the ball drift harmlessly wide.
Idah rattled the crossbar after Maeda has fired in a cross although the offside flag was up anyway.
Dylan Levitt levelled for Hibs on the hour mark with a sensational strike at Easter Road
Alexandro Bernabei didn’t have his critics to seek after his display at Pittodrie but he contributed more here. Rodgers was grateful to the Argentine’s alertness to prevent Boyle connecting with Newell’s deep cross.
Idah’s running off the ball was impressive. When Bernardo played him in with a slide-rule pass, he must have seen the morning headlines in his mind’s eye. But Marshall again rode to the rescue.
Those fans housed in the visiting end probably had a sense of what was coming next.
Meeting Newell’s free-kick, Will Fish saw Levitt lurking at the edge of the box. The Welshman’s right-foot strike from 20 yards was absolute perfection. Hart could only watch it flash into the bottom corner.
It was anyone’s game now. Sub Myziane Maolida almost put Hibs in front with an overhead kick after Scales’ error.
Boyle was booked for making the most of Bernabei’s challenge then saw Hart deflect his strike wide.
Why Celtic didn’t immediately make the winger pay at the other end was truly staggering.
Idah seemed to have all the time in the world to convert a simple chance from seven yards but hesitated. Just off the bench, Furuhashi also wanted an age to convert the follow-up chance and Newell took the ball off his toe. It summed up the recent travails of the Japanese.
With the game see-sawing from end to end, Lewis Miller slid in to meet Newell’s cross but the full-back pulled his effort before the far post.
Wales midfielder showed excellent technique to guide his strike into the bottom corner
Fish might have won it for the home side, but he dragged his shot wide. Marshall was the equal of Furuhashi’s strike at the other end.
But we hadn’t seen the last of the drama. Not by a long chalk. With the 90 minutes just about up, Furuhashi wove his way into the box but found his progress halted.
There seemed little amiss initially, but Walsh was quickly urged to take a trip to the pitch side monitor by VAR where Newell’s challenge on the forward was rightly deemed to be a foul.
What pressure Idah had on his shoulders. But he calmly slotted home again from the spot to ensure Celtic snatched the three precious points.