Agathe injury adds to O'Neill worry

Hibernian 0 Celtic 4
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The Independent Football

Celtic did not quite risk life and limb yesterday at Easter Road, but they were forced to negotiate a way past a wounded team haunted by failure to give themselves a clear view of the Nou Camp.

Celtic did not quite risk life and limb yesterday at Easter Road, but they were forced to negotiate a way past a wounded team haunted by failure to give themselves a clear view of the Nou Camp.

The issue is no longer the Scottish Premier League, which is firmly in the grasp of Martin O'Neill's team, but whether the manager has enough players for the trip to Barcelona for Thursday's crucial Uefa Cup fourth round second leg match.

O'Neill could be without six key players, as Didier Agathe - scorer of two goals against his old club here - and Paul Lambert limped off to join Alan Thompson, Stanislav Varga and Chris Sutton on the treatment table and compound the absence of Bobo Balde and Rab Douglas through suspension.

Hibernian's frustration at losing the CIS Cup Final last weekend spilled over in the final stages of this game, with Celtic cruising at 4-0. Jonathan Baillie was sent off for headbutting Craig Beattie while Gary Caldwell could easily have joined him for a cynical attempt to damage Stilian Petrov. Agathe was also at the centre of a sequence of awful tackles that saw the Frenchman leaping clear of every remaining challenge for his own safety.

Henrik Larsson managed to play, as he has done for the last month, on his own with the midfielder Petrov being thrust into a more advanced role. And he scored another double yesterday to take his total for the season to 32, eclipsing the haul of Steve Chalmers to become the third-highest scorer in Celtic's history. It was little surprise that O'Neill took him off after 62 minutes to keep him safe for Barcelona.

Hibernian could have been in front after a frenetic opening spell in which they beseiged the Celtic area. Steven Whittaker's early volley was turned aside by David Marshall, the teenage goalkeeper who is deputising for Douglas, and Caldwell was only denied by Jackie McNamara's excellent covering.

However, once Agathe put Celtic in front after 18 minutes they never looked back. Larsson had to wait until the 35th minute for his landmark goal - seizing on a piece of indecision from Andersson at the edge of his box, before poking the ball home.

On 48 minutes, Larsson scored again, after a fine pass from Neil Lennon and Agathe finished the scoring in the 80th minute, drilling a low shot past Andersson.

Hibernian (4-4-2) : Andersson;Whittaker, Baillie, Smith, Edge; S Brown, Caldwell, Nicol, Reid (Riordan, 67); Dobbie (Zambernardi, 72), McManus. Substitutes not used: A Brown, McCluskey, Orman.

Celtic (4-4-2) : Marshall; McNamara, Balde, Kennedy, McManus; Agathe, Lennon (Mjallby, 62), Lambert (Smith, 67), Pearson; Larsson (Beattie, 62), Petrov. Substitutes not used: Douglas (gk), Sylla.

Referee: D McDonald.

Booking: Hibernian: Andersson, McManus, Caldwell, Nicol, Celtic: Kennedy, McManus.

Sending off: Hibernian: Baillie.

Attendance: 9,456.

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