Celtic 3 - 1 Hibs: Leigh Griffiths makes his comeback

Striker sparkles in half-hour cameo

Leigh Griffiths made his Celtic return.
Leigh Griffiths made his Celtic return.
Leigh Griffiths made his Celtic return.

Celtic 3 (Dembele 41, Klimala 78, 83). Hibernian 1 (Doig 14)

Leigh Griffiths served notice he is ready to resuscitate his Celtic career yet again after a sparkling half-hour contribution which earned the Scottish champions victory over Hibs.

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In what was a worthwhile exercise for both teams at Celtic Park, impressive Hibs teenager Josh Doig put Jack Ross’ side ahead before 17-year-old prodigy Karamoko Dembele levelled for the hosts.

Neither side fielded full-strength line-ups in their latest friendly ahead of the Premiership kick-off this weekend but there were encouraging aspects in their respective performances for both managers.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon would be especially gratified with the lively display of Griffiths, back in the first team fold after being left out of the squad’s pre-season trips to Loughborough and France after reporting back unfit following lockdown.

Griffiths’ response since being publicly criticised by Lennon has been positive and he looked in good physical condition as he made his entrance just before the hour mark.

After almost scoring with his first touch, Griffiths set up two goals for Patryk Klimala as Celtic overcame a Hibs line-up composed of a mixture of experience and youth.

Kevin Dabrowski, who spent the first half of last season on loan at Cowdenbeath, has yet to make a competitive first team appearance for Hibs but the 22-year-old Polish goalkeeper took the opportunity here to suggest he can be relied upon as reliable back-up to Ofir Marciano in the new season.

Dabrowski distinguished himself with a fine save to keep out Ewan Henderson’s header in the ninth minute and also held a low, skidding shot from Dembele as Celtic pressed in the opening exchanges.

Scott Robertson missed another good chance, guiding the ball wide of Dabrowski’s right hand post, before Doig put Hibs in front with a fine strike.

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Darryl Horgan collected a pass from Ben Stirling on the right and the Irish striker’s cross found Doig in space on the left of the Celtic penalty area. Barely breaking stride, the teenager guided a first time volley beyond the left hand of Conor Hazard into the corner of the net.

It sparked an enterprising period of play from Hibs and Jamie Gullan might have done better than drag the ball harmlessly across the face of the six yard box after Horgan had found him with a neat reverse pass.

As Celtic responded, the trickery and sublime ball control of Dembele began to trouble the Hibs defence. Lennon was out of his technical area claiming loudly for a penalty when Dembele went down under a Paul Hanlon challenge but referee Euan Anderson wasn’t convinced.

Dembele then saw a netbound shot deflected for a corner from which Hatem Elhamed wastefully headed wide when left unattended by the Hibs central defenders.

An equaliser looked on the cards and it arrived four minutes before half-time. Melker Hallberg was caught in possession just outside the Hibs penalty area by Olivier Ntcham who threaded a pass which Dembele collected before coolly steering a left foot shot beyond the helpless Dabrowski.

Hibs threatened to regain the lead two minutes later with a typically swerving and fizzing long range effort from Stevie Mallan which Hazard managed to divert wide.

The teams traded chances at the start of the second half, Horgan and Fraser Murray forcing saves from Hazard while Klimala hit the woodwork for Celtic.

A brilliant counter attack from Hibs saw Doig come close to scoring again, his shot turned wide by Hazard, before Griffiths made his presence felt.

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He latched onto Dembele’s pass and skipped past Adam Jackson before chipping the ball over Dabrowski. The ball looked to be going in and Griffiths wasn’t exactly appreciative of Klimala’s decision to make sure with a final touch almost on the line.

Griffiths was the provider again for Klimala, now a rival for a first team place, when his corner was headed home by the Polish striker from close range.

CELTIC: Hazard, Ralston, Welsh, Elhamed, McInroy (Connell 46); Soro, Ntcham; Dembele, Robertson, Henderson (Griffiths 59); Klimala. Sub not used: Doohan.

HIBERNIAN: Dabrowski, Gray, Jackson, Hanlon; Stirling, F.Murray, Hallberg (I.Murray 68), Mallan, Doig; Gullan (Shanley 83), Horgan. Subs not used: Johnson, James, Yeats, Campbell.