'Irresistible' Bellamy gives Celtic initiative in title duel

Hibernian 1 - Celtic 3
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The Independent Football

Celtic issued a declaration of intent yesterday that they do not intend giving up their Scottish Premier League title by sweeping Hibernian aside at Easter Road to regain the psychological edge in the duel with Rangers.

Celtic issued a declaration of intent yesterday that they do not intend giving up their Scottish Premier League title by sweeping Hibernian aside at Easter Road to regain the psychological edge in the duel with Rangers.

Martin O'Neill's side took advantage of their rivals' slip against Inverness Caledonian Thistle to give an imperious performance that cuts the gap to four points, with Celtic crucially having two games in hand. Early goals from Stilian Petrov and John Hartson killed the contest before Craig Bellamy added another.

"It was absolute class," purred O'Neill. "Bellamy was irresistible." The on-loan Newcastle United striker was accused of snubbing Gary Caldwell, a former St James' Park colleague who marked him ruthlessly, after the game when handshakes were sought.

However, Celtic had that mindset that this was a day when they would not allow any niceties to get in the way of the task. Petrov struck after just four minutes, gathering Chris Sutton's low cross and avoiding Caldwell to stab the ball home.

On the half hour a fine exchange of passes saw Alan Thompson feed Sutton, whose cross was glanced on by Bellamy for Hartson to volley in.

Celtic ruled the second half with a rod of iron and it was little surprise when Bellamy struck. The striker gathered Thompson's precision pass from inside Celtic's half and sped away from Steven Whittaker before steering his shot under Simon Brown.

However, Hibernian did earn a consolation in stoppage time when Amandou Konte's cross was neatly swept in by the right boot of Guillame Beuzelin.

* On Saturday, Gretna became the first senior club in Britain to be promoted this season. A 1-0 win in the Scottish Third Division at third-placed Cowdenbeath gave them an unassailable 35-point lead over their hosts.

Goals Petrov (5) 0-1; Hartson (31) 0-2; Bellamy (69) 0-3; Beuzelin (90) 1-3.

Hibernian (4-4-2): Simon Brown; Whittaker, Smith, Caldwell, Murphy; Scott Brown, Orman, (Beuzelin, 46), Shiels, Murray; Riordan (Konte, 81), O'Connor (Sproule, 81). Substitutes not used: A Brown (gk), Fletcher, McDonald, McCluskey.

Celtic (4-4-2): Douglas; McNamara, Baldé, Varga, Laursen; Petrov, Lennon, Sutton (McGeady, 31), Thompson (Fernandez, 81); Hartson (Beattie, 74), Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Henchoz, Lambert, Wallace.

Referee: K Clark.

Booked: Hibernian Caldwell, Murray, Konte; Celtic Baldé, Lennon.

Man of the match: Bellamy.

Attendance: 15,787.

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