Frimpong and Edouard give Celtic comfortable victory over Hibernian
Celtic ensured their removal from the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership was brief with a deserved 2-0 win over Hibernian at Parkhead.
Rangers had leapfrogged the Hoops by one point with a similar victory against Motherwell at Fir Park earlier on Sunday.
But the Hoops, back to full strength after a host of players missed the Europa League dead rubber against Cluj on Thursday, responded appropriately and opened the scoring through returning right-back Jeremie Frimpong six minutes before the interval.
French striker Odsonne Edouard, also back in the team, doubled the lead in the 66th minute and it could have been a more comfortable victory for Neil Lennon’s side.
But they will settle for going back two points clear of Rangers, and they have the chance to increase that lead against struggling Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday.
After his makeshift side had lost 2-0 in Romania, having already qualified for the last 32, Lennon made seven changes in a bid to wrest back top spot from their Old Firm rivals.
Skipper Scott Brown, Fraser Forster, Frimpong, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Edouard all returned to the side while Hibs boss Jack Ross kept the same starting XI that beat Aberdeen last week.
After a minute’s applause for former Celtic defender Ian Young who died last week, the home side took control.
In the 10th minute Hibs keeper Ofir Marciano made a good save from Olivier Ntcham’s side-footed effort from 14 yards after fellow midfielder McGregor had set him up with a ball across the penalty area.
At the other end, Celtic defender Ajer’s timely tackle thwarted Jason Naismith 10 yards from goal after he latched on to a Stevie Mallan pass before Martin Boyle jinked inside and curled a right-footed drive inches past the far post.
Celtic increased the tempo. Edouard fired wide from 16 yards after being teed up by Frimpong, then the Frenchman drove wide again before Marciano made two saves from McGregor.
Hoops left-back Boli Bolingoli then went close with an effort from the edge of the box before the opener eventually came in the 39th minute.
Hibs defender Ryan Porteous sloppily lost possession to Edouard, who rolled the ball to Frimpong and the 19-year-old Dutch defender – sent off in the Betfred Cup final win over Rangers last weekend – slipped it through the legs of Marciano for his first goal at Celtic Park since signing from Manchester City in the summer.
Chris Maxwell replaced the presumably injured Marciano for the start of the second half and he too came under fire.
McGregor screwed a shot just wide of the far post from inside the box and Edouard blazed over from close range.
With only a slender lead, anxiety grew among the Celtic fans but that made way for glee when Forrest, after controlling a deep cross from Bolingoli, cut the ball back for Edouard to knock the ball into the net from eight yards.
The home side kept going for more goals but Hibs had their moments.
Striker Florian Kamberi’s deflected drive just missed the target and Celtic keeper Forster had to make a great reaction save from defender Christopher Jullien’s header to prevent an own goal.
But the champions had done enough to finish the weekend where they started it.