Hibs fail to stop Celtic juggernaut

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 26, 2014, 21:33 PM IST

Edinburgh: The relentless Celtic march on retaining the title continued on Sunday as the Glasgow giants sealed their 11th victory in a row with three late goals in a 4-0 win over Hibernian at Easter Road.

Victory sent the Hoops 15 points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership as they extended their unbeaten start to the season to 22 games and kept their ninth consecutive clean sheet in the league for the first time since the 1920s.

When Kris Commons scored the opener in the eighth minute a heavy defeat looked inevitable for Hibs, who have with this defeat lost three in a row.

However, the Easter Road outfit are one of only three teams to have take points off the Scottish champions this season in a 1-1 draw in October and they did their best to derail Neil Lennon`s side.

Only a string of fine saves from Fraser Forster to deny Abdellah Zoubir and Sam Stanton kept Celtic in front while James Collins had a first half penalty claim turned down.

A magnificent 77th minute free-kick from Dutchman Virgil van Dijk made it 2-0 before second half substitute Teemu Pukki fired home in the 83rd minute.

Commons then netted from the penalty spot in the 90th minute after Pukki had been brought down to score a double for the third consecutive match.

Celtic had made two changes from the side that defeated Motherwell last weekend with Georgios Samaras coming in for the suspended Anthony Stokes and Nir Biton replacing the injured James Forrest.

Forster hasn`t conceded in over 13 hours of domestic football but the English `keeper had to be alert early on as Alex Harris drilled a fierce effort just by the post.

However, the in-form Commons only had to wait until the eighth minute to score the opening goal for Celtic for the 12th time this season. Hibs defenders Michael Nelson and Jordon Forster collided as they both tried to deal with a long, high ball and it broke to Commons who calmly sent a left strike over the advancing Ben Williams.

Hibs responded well to their setback and minutes later they had a penalty claim turned down when van Dijk appeared to clip the ankles of Collins in the box.

Debutant Stanton was the next to get a glimpse of goal for Hibs. His fierce strike from just inside the box drew a good diving save from Forster with Emilio Izaguirre clearing the danger just before Collins could pounce on the rebound.

It was Hibs who again tested Celtic with Forster pulling off two wonder saves to deny Zoubir twice in quick succession.

The keeper made a fingertip save to turn to stop the Hibernian forward`s curling effort dipping into the top corner and, from the resultant corner, he got down well to smartly beat away Zoubir`s stinging strike from 20 yards.

Forster then made an outstanding save to keep his clean sheet record intact as he stuck up a hand to tip away a fierce strike from Stanton.

Celtic seemed to be toiling but a magnificent free-kick from Van Dijk doubled Celtic`s advantage as the Dutchman curled the set piece into the top corner from 22 yards.

Pukki made sure of the points with a drilled angled shot after he cut into the box from the right.

The Finnish striker then earned his side a penalty, which Commons expertly despatched, when Alan Maybury barged into him in the box.