Celtic survived a tough examination at Easter Road, but Bobo Balde proved he has yet to learn his lesson. The towering defender, who was sent off in last season's Uefa Cup final against Porto in Seville, saw red again yesterday and will now miss next Saturday's Old Firm encounter with Rangers.
Henrik Larsson supplied the decisive strike to seal Celtic's comeback from a goal down, yet his team had to endure a torrid last 20 minutes after Balde was dismissed for lashing out at Scott Brown while lying on the ground after the Hibernian substitute had jumped into him.
It is the last thing that Martin O'Neill needs so close to the first Glasgow derby of the season, with four recognised central defenders already out injured, and the manager refused to offer any sympathy to Balde. "The bottom line is you can't throw out arms or legs in retaliation," he said.
"It was a bit like the Patrick Vieira incident at Old Trafford last week but the fact is, you cannot do that. I will get round to how I replace him for the Rangers game later in the week - we've got Lyon in the Champions' League before that."
If the referee, Alan Freeland, was quick to spot Balde's foolishness, it was probably because his mind was finely tuned. Two seasons ago, on this very pitch, Freeland had failed to spot Balde using an elbow, and it took video evidence for the player to receive a suspension.
Hibernian will be irked at how this contest slipped away. They could have made Celtic suffer had they built upon the deserved first-half lead that Mathias Doumbe had supplied, but the advantage lasted just 60 seconds before Alan Thompson replied with a penalty.
The Edinburgh club ought to have profited from one of the many chances they carved out. Garry O'Connor seemed poised to finish off Steven Dobbie's header back across goal until Balde got in front of him to knock the ball over the bar after just eight minutes. The giant Frenchman reacted equally well just before the half-hour, when O'Connor seemed certain to pick out Dobbie but Balde deflected it for a corner.
Hibernian finally went ahead in the 38th minute. Stephen Glass delivered a perfect corner to the back post that was headed down by Colin Murdock for Doumbe to sweep past Magnus Hedman. However, Celtic's response was swift. Stilian Petrov's surge into the box saw him brought down by Jarko Wiss, and Thompson sent goalkeeper Daniel Andersson the wrong way.
Just six minutes after the interval, Larsson scored to put Celtic in front. Stanislav Varga picked out Shaun Maloney's run with a pass which the little striker cleverly, and unselfishly, turned across the face of goal for Larsson to apply the finishing touch.
Celtic then missed a succession of presentable chances, with Andersson producing one superb save to deny Maloney. Once Balde departed the scene, O'Neill's team were almost made to regret that profligacy.
Thompson pen 40, Larsson 51
Half-time 1-1 Attendance: 12,032
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