Revealed: The Celtic weakness pinpointed by Hibs boss Jack Ross during his half-time team talk

At half-time on Saturday, Hibs would probably have accepted a draw but that was before manager Jack Ross pointed out some Celtic vulnerabilities which the home side were able to expose as they moved into a 2-0 lead.

Jamie Murphy celebrates with Steven Mallan and Joe Newell after scoring to make it 1-0 to Hibs during the Scottish Premiership match against Celtic at Easter Road, on November 21, 2020 (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

It meant that by the time the final whistle sounded and they had been pegged back, the draw felt more like a defeat.

“If you had asked us at half-time, we’d probably have taken a point. But the game turned on its head,” admitted defender Ryan Porteous.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

“In the first-half, we had a chance to cause them problems, but we thought that earlier in the season at Parkhead as well and lost that one 3-0.

“The gaffer showed us a couple of weaknesses we could exploit and the diagonal for the second goal was one of them. So, credit to the gaffer for that, and having that bit of belief, we went out in the second half and scored two.

“From that position, you think three points are a must, but it wasn’t to be, even if before the game or at half-time, a point would have been sufficient for us.”

While Celtic had enjoyed more control in the first half, Hibs tenacity, allied to their 4-1-4-1 formation, which kept their guests at arms’ length, as well as more quality goalkeeping from Ofir Marciano, kept the scoreline blank and ensured the home side were still in the game at the interval.

The bolder side in the second half, they began to get more support up to sole striker Kevin Nisbet, with both Jamie Murphy and Martin Boyle a danger. The latter won the 52nd minute penalty after Celtic captain Scott Brown bundled him over in the box, and although Nisbet’s spot-kick was parried by Scott Bain, Murphy pounced to drive the rebound across goal and inside the far post.

The diagonal identified by Ross picked out Murphy minutes later and he headed on to Nisbet and this time the striker provided the finish.

From that moment on, the draw would be viewed as the consolation prize.

The latest handball controversy gave Celtic a lifeline, when the unfortunate Paul McGinn was punished, unfairly according to team-mate Porteous.

“Their penalty is one of those. It does hit his hand, but what is he, maybe a yard away [when it hits his arm]? He refereed the game exactly how he’s been told to but something needs to change. You can’t defend like that in the box. It’s not realistic. Everyone can see that.

“But we can’t moan about decisions as we are 2-0 up with 15 minutes to play and we should be seeing it out.”

They still looked like they might not only see it out, but enhance their goal tally, even if Celtic had thrown on a glut of top striking options to try to occupy them at the other end of the pitch.

Marciano had to make a couple more saves but the men in front of him made sure they were predominantly long-range and at the other end, Hibs continued to probe.

But, then came the late suckerpunch and a Diego Laxalt equaliser. It illustrated how ambitions change. Forty-five minutes earlier, Hibs would have settled for that scoreline but, as they trudged up the tunnel, there was only frustration and disappointment.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.