Kevin Nisbet’s injury-time goal saw Hibernian draw 1-1 at a depleted Celtic as the champions’ hopes of retaining their Scottish Premiership title took another blow.
The home side, managed by first-team coach Gavin Strachan with manager Neil Lennon and 14 of his players missing due to Covid-19 restrictions, thought they had taken all three points when David Turnbull opened the scoring with a wonderful free-kick nine minutes from time.
However, up popped Nisbet in the first minute of stoppage time to earn the visitors a deserved share of the spoils, with Celtic now a mammoth 21 points behind Rangers, albeit with three games in hand on their city rivals, while Hibs stay fourth in the table.
Celtic: Hazard (6), Duffy (7), Soro (7), Turnbull (8), Rogic (6), Johnston (6), Frimpong (6), McGregor (6), Harper (6), Welsh (6), Laxalt (6)
Subs: Dembele (6) Okoflex (6), Henderson (6)
Hibs: Macey (7), P. McGinn (6), Porteous (6), Hanlon (6), Doig (7), Hallberg (7), Gogic (7), Wright (6), Newell (7), Murphy (8), Nisbet (9)
Subs: Stevenson (6), S. McGinn (6), Doidge (7)
Man of the match: Kevin Nisbet
How Hibs’ late show dented Celtic’s title bid
Captain Scott Brown led the list of notable absentees, with no sign of first-choice goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas, defenders Kristopher Ajer and Hatem abd Elhamed, midfield men Mohamed Elyounoussi, Ryan Christie and Olivier Ntcham and strikers Odsonne Edouard, Leigh Griffiths and Albian Ajeti either.
Yet the champions were still able to field a team containing eight established first-teamers, while back-up stopper Conor Hazard and Stephen Welsh have both played a handful of games this season.
Only American winger Cameron Harper was new to first-team action as he started up front.
Hibs reluctantly lined up after failing with a late bid to force Celtic to retest their squad, having been warned by the SPFL they would face “severe consequences” if they did not fulfil the fixture.
It was no surprise to see them take the game to their hosts early on and they created three chances inside the first 10 minutes. Celtic did better to close the gaps after that, but were hardly dominant.
Yet they might have grabbed a lead had Harper not taken a shot himself – finding only the side netting – when he had Tom Rogic and Turnbull screaming for a cutback.
Ismaila Soro and Diego Laxalt both tried their luck from distance in the minutes before the break, but former Arsenal ‘keeper Matt Macey – making his Hibs debut – got hands on both efforts. Stand-in skipper Callum McGregor then dragged wide after being played in by Turnbull’s spooned pass.
Harper had to be replaced on the hour after going down with cramp, but with none of their big hitters to turn to, Strachan was forced to bring on another youngster in Armstrong Oko-Flex.
But that only underlined Celtic’s lack of cutting edge and Hibs soon got themselves back on the front foot and would have opened the scoring had it not been for Hazard’s brave block on Melker Hallberg.
Celtic first-team coach Gavin Strachan was still able to name a fairly strong line-up, with the likes of Ismaila Soro, David Turnbull, Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor all starting as the hosts made six changes from their 1-0 loss at Rangers last time out.
But the hosts were without star names such as captain Scott Brown, Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer, goalkeepers Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain, while their bench consisted mostly of youth-team players.
It appeared, however, that Turnbull had got the hosts out of jail with eight minutes left. Brought down by Hibs sub Stephen McGinn, he got up to whip a fabulous free-kick over the wall and past Macey.
But Celtic’s Achilles heel was exposed yet again 60 seconds into stoppage time. Stevie Mallan’s free-kick was met by Paul McGinn as he climbed over Turnbull. Shane Duffy cleared off the line, but only as far as Nisbet, who rammed home another from close range.
It was a devastating blow to the Hoops and another may have followed soon after – but Mallan saw his strike creep over the bar.
Man of the Match – Kevin Nisbet
The Hibs striker led the line expertly at Parkhead, providing a constant menace for the rejigged Celtic back line with his clever runs in behind the hosts’ back four.
The 23-year-old was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet in the first half, but you always knew that if a chance came his way after the break, he would most likely take it.
And while it seemed as though that opportunity may never come, the forward found himself in the right place, at exactly the right time, to keep his cool in front of goal late on and earn his side a deserved point with one of the more straightforward finishes of his career.
Celtic host Livingston, while Hibs entertain Kilmarnock, with both games getting underway at 3pm on Saturday.