Celtic regain top spot in Scottish Premier league

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Gary Hooper scored a double and missed a penalty as Celtic regained top spot in the Scottish Premier League with a 3-1 win over Hibernian at Parkhead on Wednesday.

Rangers had held the lead for the first time in 2011 thanks to their 2-0 win away to St Johnstone 24 hours previously, but a first-half onslaught against Hibs helped the Hoops reclaim their two-point advantage.

Irish international Anthony Stokes sent Celtic on their way after just three minutes before Hooper scored his first from the penalty spot in the 19th minute and then lashed in his second 20 minutes later.

David Wootherspoon won Hibs a penalty which Liam Miller converted in the 67th minute before Hooper spurned a late chance to seal his hat-trick, from the spot, after substitute Freddie Ljungberg had been upended in the box.

Celtic made three changes from the side which lost the League Cup final as Georgios Samaras, Thomas Rogne and Kris Commons made way for Stokes, Glenn Loovens and James Forrest.

Hibernian were forced into two defensive changes and their frailties at the back were soon exposed.

Stokes, in his first start since March 5, showed the Celtic fans what they had been missing when his one-two with Hooper released the Englishman for a chance within 30 seconds, but his low shot was blocked by the advancing Mark Brown.

However Celtic had only to wait another three minutes to take the lead. Emilio Izaguirre’s cross from the left evaded everyone but Stokes who sent a low angled shot past Brown for his 14th league goal of the season.

Mark Wilson’s header was cleared off the line before Celtic doubled their advantage when Hooper sent a penalty into the roof of the net in the 19th minute after Scott Brown took a tumble in the box from a Martin Scott challenge.

The Celtic onslaught continued and it was game over for Hibs in the 39th minute when Hooper got his second of the game. The impressive Stokes slipped the ball to Hooper in the box and despite being surrounded by Hibernian defenders he turned to lash a first-time effort past Brown at his near post.

Rogne replaced Loovens at the break and Derek Riordan hit a shot into the side netting before limping off for Akpo Sodje as the tempo dropped in the second-half.

Honduran international Izaguirre flashed a shot across the face of goal after a one-two with Hooper before Hibs pulled one back from the penalty spot in 67th minute. Charlie Mulgrew was penalised for a pull of Wootherspoon’s shirt as he went past him and former Celtic player Miller sent Fraser Forster the wrong way with a low strike from 12 yards.

Former Arsenal player Ljungberg came off the bench for his first appearance since the end of January and won Celtic a penalty within two minutes of his introduction when he was brought down by Paul Hanlon.

Hooper stepped up looking for a hat-trick but sent his second spot-kick of the night wide.

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