Celtic could not sustain their euphoria. Qualifying for the Champions League group stages in midweek was a momentous event, but humdrum occasions are still to be encountered as part of their routine. This ought to have been a straightforward task, since Hibernian arrived in the opposite frame of mind.
The Easter Road side were knocked out of the Scottish Communities League Cup by Queen of the South, a Second Division side, in midweek. That was the kind of result that causes a team to cower, and the visitors were initially unable to restrain Celtic. It took only 11 minutes for Mikael Lustig to open the scoring, side-footing a shot beyond Ben Williams. The goal was commonplace, since it came direct from a corner, but Celtic were intent on being grandly dominant.
Gary Hooper struck the crossbar with a shot, then later sent a header off the post. Other chances were scorned, particularly when Tony Watt chipped wide with only the goalkeeper to beat. The misses did not prompt anxiety, since Celtic were in control, but they left Celtic vulnerable. When Lustig and Fraser Forster, the Celtic goalkeeper, hesitated inside the penalty area, Tim Clancy stole in to equalise. Carelessness was not restricted to that single moment. Celtic restored their lead when Williams spilled Filip Twardzik's free-kick, and the ball fell to Lustig. His shot was diverted over the line by James McPake, the Hibs defender. Celtic should then have been dogged enough to hold on to their lead, but Adam Matthews allowed himself to be brushed aside by Paul Cairney, who then steered a shot beyond Forster.
Celtic could not recover their poise, even when the visitors retreated into a cautious approach. Twardzik, who had mostly been an impressive performer in midfield, lashed over from close range just before the end, prompting manager Neil Lennon to leap from the ground in frustration.
"It was very unlucky, and the result flatters Hibs," said Lennon, who also revealed that a deal is almost completed to sign the Tunisian striker Lassade Nouioui, who was freed by Deportivo La Coruna last season.
Value for money?
Celtic paid an unknown fee for Nigerian centre-back Efe Ambrose and signed Getafe striker Nicolas Fedor and Nantes keeper Lubos Kamenar on loan. Hibs signed defender Ryan McGivern on loan from Manchester City. None played
Celtic (4-4-2): Forster; Matthews, Lustig, Wilson, Izaguirre; Forrest, Wanyama (Irvine, 46), Twardzik, McCourt (Commons, 73); Watt, Hooper.
Hibernian (4-2-3-1): Williams; Clancy, McPake, Hanlon, Maybury; Claros, Deegan (Stevenson, 87); Wotherspoon (Sproule, 87), Cairney, Doyle; Griffiths.
Referee I Brines.