Celtic 2 HIbernian 1: Vennegoor investment comes good

Celtic's big-name recruit overwhelms Hibs
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The Independent Football

The man with the longest name in European football took no time to make his name here yesterday. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink showed why Celtic paid £3.4 million for him by securing the winner in an engrossing game against Hibernian.

It will cost any Celtic fan £20 to put the Dutchman's 23 characters on the back of a replica shirt, but his 66th-minute finish, just 11 minutes after coming off the bench, underlined why Gordon Strachan bought him from PSV Eindhoven last Thursday.

Hibernian had looked like spoiling Celtic's day when Scott Brown's early goal rewarded a polished first half, but Maciez Zurawski's equaliser turned the tide and paved the way for Vennegoor's memorable arrival.

In the first half it was two diminutive Hibernian talents who took the spotlight. Merouane Zemmama arrived recently at Easter Road and the rave reviews that the Moroccan has been earning were immediately justified as he nutmegged Mark Wilson and Stephen Pearson in the box before drilling a low shot past goalkeeper David Marshall, only for Stephen McManus to clear the ball off the line.

However, there was no reprieve for Celtic when Hibernian went ahead after eight minutes. This time Zemmama turned provider as he eluded Neil Lennon and then threaded a clever pass inside Lee Naylor - making his debut after moving last week from Wolverhampton Wanderers - that allowed the eager Brown to steer an angled shot past Marshall.

Celtic's dented pride prompted a response that saw Lennon's volley palmed away by Zibi Malkowski, before Shunsuke Nakamura's drive was held with confidence. Nakamura then drew a foul from Jay Shields on the half-hour that allowed the Japanese playmaker to whip in a free-kick but Malkowski touched the ball against the bar.

Hibernian's other Moroccan, Abdesallam Benjelloun, just failed to score again as he profited from a fine reverse pass by Kevin Thomson and slipped from the clutches of Naylor and Gary Caldwell before clipping his shot over Marshall but also the bar. However, Benjelloun was then removed from play by manager Tony Mowbray after escaping with just a yellow card for an elbow of Pearson.

It was little surprise that Strachan brought Vennegoor on after 52 minutes and within a few minutes the Dutchman's height fashioned a header from Mark Wilson's cross that produced a save.

Celtic, roared on by a raucous support, restored parity in the 63rd minute when Zurawski pounced. Three minutes later, Vennegoor ignited Parkhead, putting home the rebound from McGeady's 20-yard shot.

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