THIS surely has to be the end of ten now for Celtic.
A consequence of a self-inflicted blunder of unbelievable proportions to go to Dubai – and end up with a shadow team.
Hibs are level in stoppage time! ⏱️Laxalt gives away a soft free kick before Hazard makes a mess of his attempted clearance, allowing Nisbet the chance to side-foot home!Watch live on Sky Sports Football or follow it here: https://t.co/KAFIQBixRB pic.twitter.com/QGkWMt8zwz
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) January 11, 2021
Celtic star David Turnbull thought he’d won it but for Nisbet’s late levellerCredit: PA:Press Association
But this was also heart-breaking for those called on to keep alive faint title hopes.
They gave absolutely everything in the pouring rain and David Turnbull’s late wonder free-kick looked to have given them a stunning victory.
But, a minute into added time Kevin Nisbet pounced to shatter Hoops hearts – and no also doubt spark wild celebrations in every Rangers-loving household.
Rangers’ lead is now 21 points and not even three games in hand can revive it for the Hoops now.
Only a catastrophic collapse by the Light Blues will do that.
Rarely before has a Hibs team been under such pressure to avoid defeat at Parkhead.
Seeing the Celtic team-sheet – no Ajer, Christie, Griffiths, Edouard, Elyounoussi – with an astonishing 15 players out, primarily through Covid-19 reasons, cranked up hugely expectation on them for a result.
From the lunch-time moment Celtic confirmed the already crocked Christopher Jullien had tested positive and that 13 more players, plus even Neil Lennon and John Kennedy, were having to self isolate, the social media chat of WHO would be in the Hoops side dripped of ridicule.
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Kevin Nisbet netted late to snatch a point for HibernianCredit: PA:Press Association
And, yet, they were still able to name a team with decent pedigree with only kid Cameron Harper, 19, an unknown.
The troubled Shane Duffy – who quit the Dubai trip early for ‘personal reasons’ – had been ruled out over the weekend supposedly due to Covid bubble reasons.
Yet, here he was – understood to have delivered two negative tests in the space of at least 48-hours.
Sacramento rookie Harper has been wishing a full Hoops debut for long enough, but never in these circumstances…dramatically picked to fill the shoes of Edouard.
A USA youth ace truly living the American dream.
Hibs for their part didn’t have Martin Boyle and immediate cynicism said he was one of the squad with reservations of playing due to Celtic’s Covid predicament.
But the truth was more mundane – he’d merely rolled his ankle in training.
Boss Jack Ross had five changes following a third successive defeat – with 6ft 6ins Matt Macey making his debut in goal.
Top three aiming Hibs were quick to put the pressure on the thrown-together Celts.
A third minute Melker Hallberg corner was met with a glancing Nisbet header which dropped just over.
Then four minutes later Joe Newell’s well struck left foot volley was pushed away by Conor Hazard.
Costly loan stopper Duffy’s been much maligned for dreadful displays – but he deserved credit for a superb clearing far post header from an excellent Newell cross with two Hibs players prowling.
It was all Hibs with the Celts looking like they were still trying to get to know each other.
Jamie Murphy put in Nisbet with a great pass and after moving into the box he unleashed a low right foot which Hazard held well down to his right.
Celtic finally showed in the 10th minute – Turnbull’s right foot shot producing Macey’s first save.
It lifted the Hoops and Harper, from a 25th minute Mikey Johnston through ball, raced into the box and fired into the side-net from an acute angle.
It was a decent chance – but screaming at him were Tom Rogic and Turnbull who were better placed for a cut-back.
Harper cut a slight figure against the physical Paul Hanlon and Ryan Porteous but he was tireless with his running into space and harrying.
Macey – in from Arsenal until the end of the season – looked the part and two minutes from half time he produced a decent tip over from a rasping Ismaila Soro shot from 30-yards.
Seconds later he managed even better – a stunning save high to his right to push away a Diego Laxalt effort from distance.
Suddenly, Celtic swarmed over the Hibees defence and great skill by Turnbull, flicking the ball up to Callum McGregor in the box, saw the captain fail to finish in equal style.
It had been a decent half and Hibs brought on Lewis Stevenson after the break for his 500th appearance.
Celtic, of course, badly needed the three points but they were up against a yellow Hibees wall of three uncompromising stoppers and two quick wing-backs. Alex Gogic, too, was an effective spoiler in front.
It was hard going for the under pressure champions with Hibs – who also quickly introduced Christian Doidge – possessing plenty of know-how in attack.
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Cramp victim Harper was replaced by another debutant, Irish youth international Armstrong Oko-flex, as the Hoops options began to look thread-bare.
And they were grateful to Hazard on the hour for a wonderful point-blank block from Hallberg who’d been sent in by Newell.
Johnston screamed for a penalty after trickery in the box invited a Porteous challenge but ref Steven McLean wasn’t interested.
Celtic toiled to create chances as Hibs tried to turn the screw at the other end.
Then Johnston weaved some magic before shooting weakly at Macey from distance.
Hibs responded with a deflected Nisbet volley in the box which almost wrong-footed Hazard who adjusted to save.
Ten minutes from the end it appeared bleak for Celtic – until Turnbull rose to the occasion.
He’d played his heart out, taking on added responsibility, when he won a free-kick from Hibs sub Stephen McGinn in the perfect position.
And from 20-yards he curled a sublime right foot effort into the far top corner.
It was a sensational, priceless goal under big pressure – and you bet messrs Lennon and Kennedy were up on their feet in their living rooms shouting for joy.
But then there was despair in the 91st minute – yet more set-piece torment – as a Paul McGinn header from sub Stevie Mallan’s free-kick was cleared off the line by Duffy – and Nisbet rammed home from five yards.
CELTIC: Hazard 8, Frimpong 7, Duffy 7, Welsh 7, Laxalt 7, Soro 7, McGregor 7, Harper 5 (Oko-flex 3) Johnston 6 (Dembele 3), Turnbull 9, Rogic 6 (Henderson 3). Booked: Soro
HIBS: Macey 7, P McGinn 6, Porteous 6, Hanlon 6, Doig 4 (Stevenson 5), Hallberg 7 (S McGinn 3), Gogic 6, Wright 5 (Doidge 3), Newell 6 (Mallan 3), Murphy 7, Nisbet 7. Booked: Porteous
REF: Steven McLean 7 More