Double Dutch delight for Celtic

Celtic 2 Hibernian 1
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Celtic 2 Hibernian 1

Celtic once again showed quality and determination to keep themselves in contention as the title race enters its closing stages.

The seven-point advantage gained by Rangers courtesy of their 5-0 win over Partick Thistle on Saturday was reduced to four with three games remaining, yet Celtic had one foot over the precipice before resurrecting their dreams. For that they can thank Pierre van Hooijdonk, the Dutch striker, who scored goals Nos 29 and 30 in a season of personal success.

For long enough against 10-man Hibernian this looked to be one challenge too many for Celtic as Jim Leighton performed heroics to deny them time and again. The Scotland goalkeeper pulled off outstanding second-half saves from Van Hooijdonk and Paul McStay before Celtic at last made the breakthrough in the 68th minute.

Simon Donnelly's cross from the right was headed powerfully into the top corner by Van Hooijdonk to equalise Pat McGinlay's opener for Hibs.

There appeared little danger as McGinlay, the former Celtic midfielder, controlled the ball inside the penalty area in the 50th minute but he swivelled and slammed a left-foot shot across Gordon Marshall and into the far corner of the net.

Hibs' joy reflected the fact that they had battled with 10 men since the 39th minute when Graeme Love was sent off for swinging an elbow into the face of Van Hooijdonk.

The turnabout in the second half was spectacular as Celtic made the extra man count but it took the introduction of Andreas Thom on the hour mark to turn the game Celtic's way.

The German was involved in the move for Celtic's first goal and with nine minutes remaining he beat the offside trap to run on to a McStay through ball and square for Van Hooijdonk to tap in the winner.

Goals: McGinlay (5) 1-0; Van Hooijdonk (68) 1-1; Van Hooijdonk (81) 1-2.

Hibernian (4-4-2): Leighton; Miller, Tweed, Millen, Dow; McAllister, McGinlay, Love, O'Neill (Wright, 85); Evans (Donald, 88), Jackson. Substitute not used: Farrell.

Celtic (4-4-2): Marshall; McNamara, Boyd, Mackay, McKinlay; Wieghorst, Grant, McStay, Collins (Thom, 60); Donnelly (Cadete, 87), Van Hooijdonk. Substitute not used: Gray.

Referee: J McClusky (Stewartown).

Bookings: Hibs: Evans; Celtic: Mackay. Sending-off: Hibs: Love

Man of the match: Leighton.

Attendance: 10,472.