Celtic final word: Quintet all shone but one should keep place, the duo that left Hibs boss purring

Ange Postecoglou cut a very contented figure following Celtic’s rampant 6-1 victory over Hibs.

The manager had clearly been irked by some of the criticism that has come Celtic’s way on the back of a difficult Champions League campaign, where a second defeat by RB Leipzig on Tuesday ended their hopes of reaching the knockout stages. His belief is that his team are playing well in Europe’s premier event and, having been absent for a number years, are learning on the job, particularly in the art of being ruthless in front of goal.

There were no such issues at home to Hibs on Saturday in the cinch Premiership. Celtic took six of their chances. That clearly pleased Postecoglou. But the Australian took great heart in watching the five players he introduced have such a major impact on proceedings. James Forrest was handed his first start of the season and repaid his boss by scoring a hat-trick, taking him to the 100-goal mark in club colours. He grabbed the headlines but there were others who gave a reminder of what they can do.

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Alexandro Bernabei, the young Argentinian left-back, was given a rare start and kept Hibs’ dangerman Martin Boyle reasonably quiet. He also provided an assist to Giorgios Giakoumakis on 18 minutes, the big Greek forward another who was brought into the team. He looked fresh, hungry and added a second goal later in the match. The ever-dependable Anthony Ralston had a serene time at right-back, in place of the rested Josip Juranovic, but the man who really stood out was Aaron Mooy. Always a diligent handler of the ball, the Australian was asked to play higher up the midfield and support the forward line with Reo Hatate. This was Mooy’s best display in a Celtic shirt and with Callum McGregor out until December at the earliest, he is staking a strong claim to stay in the team when the next Champions League tie comes around against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Aaron Mooy was asked to play higher up the pitch for Celtic and shone.Aaron Mooy was asked to play higher up the pitch for Celtic and shone.
Aaron Mooy was asked to play higher up the pitch for Celtic and shone.

As a collective, Celtic were just far too strong for Hibs in every department. The only blot on the copybook was Elie Youan’s 56th-minute goal to give Hibs a slither of hope, but the way the hosts responded and put their foot to the floor again was impressive. Forrest, who had opened the scoring on nine minutes and then added a second with a shot Hibs keeper David Marshall should not have spilled over the line on 24 minutes, completed his treble two minutes after Youan’s goal and thus ending Hibs’ hopes of revival. Giakoumakis added a fifth to supplement his own first-half goal and then Daizen Maeda came off the bench and did his confidence no harm with a late goal.

For all the impact the five aforementioned players had, though, it was two other players that caught the eye of Hibs boss Lee Johnson when he spoke to the media afterwards. “I look at the Japanese players [Kyogo Furuhashi and Hatate], you’re so dynamic, powerful, athletic,” he purred. “I’d be knocking on a door asking them what you do. What do you do for breakfast, stretch, how many weights? That’s the standard the boys [the Hibs team] need to be at.”

Easier said than done, Lee. This Celtic team, even without its best players, put on a show and underlined how much stronger they are than the rest. It’s Motherwell up next for them on Wednesday in the Premier Sports Cup.