Scott Brown and Ofir Marciano take their bows but it is Hibs goalkeeper who has more to celebrate against Celtic

Before the game everything had been about Scott Brown and his Celtic curtain call.

Fifteen years on from his final game for Hibs, against Celtic, the Parkhead club’s once trophy-laden captain returned to Easter Road to make another goodbye.

And, in a stadium devoid of crowds, and the kind of atmosphere he thrives on, there wasn’t a final bow, as such. In a low key game, with nothing at stake, it felt as though things just petered out.

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A 0-0 stalemate, it was a result that will mean more to Ofir Marciano a man who has been linked with a future at Celtic after deciding to draw his time in Leith to a close.

Hibs manager Jack Ross, and Celtic captain Scott Brown after the sides settled on a 0-0 at Easter Road in their final league game of the season. Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group
Hibs manager Jack Ross, and Celtic captain Scott Brown after the sides settled on a 0-0 at Easter Road in their final league game of the season. Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group
Hibs manager Jack Ross, and Celtic captain Scott Brown after the sides settled on a 0-0 at Easter Road in their final league game of the season. Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group

His 14th clean sheet in the season, with Matt Macey expected to take on cup duties next weekend, it was a fitting end to a five-year association that has proved mutually-beneficial.

The game served as a bookmark in the careers of several players on the pitch. With a handful of Celtic players expected to move on in the summer following the arrival of a new manager, it was also interim boss John Kennedy’s last match at the helm, as they look to rebuild quickly and get themselves in a position to apply pressure to champions Rangers next term.

Unlike their guests, Hibs are not finished with this season, though, and while some of the fringe players who were given a run-out may be mulling over the merits of staying put, when every indication is that the squad will be strengthened as the club look to build on this season and take even bigger strides forward, certain short-term matters are taking precedence.

With third place in the league secured thanks to his side’s midweek efforts, manager Jack Ross had the luxury of changing up his starting line up as he sought to manage the squad ahead of next weekend’s Scottish Cup final.

Making eight changes to the team that bettered Aberdeen, only two or three of the men who will be given the nod at Hampden next week were included in the team. Ryan Porteous and Joe Newell – who were rested at Pittodrie after picking up knocks in the semi final – slotted back into the starting ranks and Alex Gogic will also feel hopeful of starting. Yet another quality performance will have bolstered those ambitions, while veterans Darren McGregor and Lewis Stevenson proved they can still do a job, if that suits.

In reality, for the majority, the run-out against Celtic was a chance to remind their boss what they could bring to the side from the substitute bench, with the men they were deputising primed to resume their usual slots.

On the back of the resolute display on Wednesday, Hibs again shone in defence, defying Celtic, who will have been desperate to end a disappointing season on a high note. But, as they have done too many times this term, they failed to translate that intent and left points out on the pitch to lodge their lowest league tally for over two decades, since the days of John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish.

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If it has been a season to forget for the nine-in-a-row outfit, Hibs are hoping it will prove one that is not readily dismissed.

Already assured third and their highest league finish in 16 years, and in Europe, the League Cup semi-finalists are not done. They are still focused on lifting the Scottish Cup by defeating St Johnstone on Saturday.

The fact they have been in such stubborn mood in the last two league matches bodes well.

Celtic had the better chances and should have found a way to win this one but Hibs provided answers to all the questions posed.

Mohamed Elyounoussi had the best openings but in another extended defending drill, the combined efforts of the Hibs backline, and Marciano thwarted him.

The first half was almost all Celtic. On the front foot, they tried to prise open the home rearguard but both Calum McGregor and David Turnbull were forced to take their shots from distance.

Their Norwegian team-mate came close in the early stages we he got through but, with Marciano beaten, his attempt was cleared off the line by the dogged Darren McGregor, who having said that Porteous deserves to play in the final, produced yet another superb performance worthy of giving his gaffer pause for thought.

As part of a hard-working midfield, Newell did well to sense danger soon after, nipping in to nick the ball away from league top scorer Odsonne Edouard as he prepared to strike.

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Marciano was next to repel the Celtic attack, ushering Elyounoussi wide and staying big so that he was able to block the shot when it eventually came at him from the narrowed angle.

The keeper was busy in that first 45 minutes as Edouard and Ryan Christie sent in efforts and Elyounoussi lashed another shot at him but the men in front of him did a better job of reading the danger and clearing the lines after the interval and, with a few of the regulars joining the fray, Hibs even managed to have a few chances of their own as they looked to snatch victory late on.

Jackson Irvine and Christian Doidge had digs but neither goalkeeper had much to do as the game ended all square.

It was a game that summed up Celtic’s season as they dominated possession but were left to rue missed chances. It also reflected much of the grit, belief and capacity Hibs have shown to grind out games. More streetwise than the team that started the season, they will go into next week’s cup showdown determined to make the most of the opportunity in front of them.

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