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Rodgers hails his depleted Bhoys as fringe men step up

Celtic 2 Hibernian 0

Finisher: Celtic’s Oliver Burke scores his side’s second goal of the game against Hibernian last night
Finisher: Celtic’s Oliver Burke scores his side’s second goal of the game against Hibernian last night

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic showed their strength in depth with a routine 2-0 win over Hibernian in their Ladbrokes Premiership clash at Parkhead.

Boss Brendan Rodgers had a team of players unavailable, mostly through injuries, which had left his squad stretched, but they were still too strong for the visitors and led at the interval by midfielder Ryan Christie's 24th-minute drive.

Striker Oliver Burke, on loan from West Brom, doubled the home side's lead in the 64th minute with a deflected shot for what, in the end, was a solid more than sparkling win.

Rangers' 4-2 win at Aberdeen means leaders Celtic maintain their six-point lead over their Old Firm rivals as they continue an impressive run of form, having won all six matches since the turn of the year without conceding a goal.

"I thought it was a good performance. I thought we managed the game very well," said Hoops chief Rodgers.

"Just once or twice we were a bit loose with our passing and giving it away under pressure. But I thought we controlled the game."

Hibs' caretaker manager Eddie May now has two defeats and one victory on his record since stepping in for departed head coach Neil Lennon and the Easter Road club continue their quest for a replacement ahead of the William Hill Scottish Cup game against Raith at the weekend, where they will hope to get their focus back.

Rodgers' options were reduced but Belgium defender Dedryck Boyata returned after missing four matches with an abductor injury to replace suspended Kristoffer Ajer.

New signing Jeremy Toljan made his first start at right-back, Timothy Weah came in for injured winger James Forrest while another of Celtic's January recruits, 22-year-old Ivory Coast forward Vakoun Bayo, started on the bench.

The visitors, who had Ryan Gauld and Sean Mackie back in the side, showed some early intent but Celtic's pressure began to slowly build and the impending opener came when Christie took a pass from Toljan inside the penalty area and quickly fired a right-footed drive low past Marciano for his third goal in four games.

Hibs became increasingly ragged and Marciano parried a Weah shot as the home side threatened.

After the break, Marciano made a remarkable save from Boyata's close-range header from a whipped-in Christie free-kick.

However, the second goal arrived soon afterwards. Burke raced into the box to take a clever Christie pass with his drive hitting Hibs defender Darren McGregor and looping over Marciano.

Later, McNulty flashed a drive over the Celtic bar but a comeback looked unlikely.

Bayo was ready to make his Celtic debut but as he stood on the sidelines, Emilio Izaguirre was crocked by a fierce tackle by Darnell Johnson.

Jonny Hayes came on for the Honduras international who was carried up tunnel on a stretcher, the one sour note of Celtic's evening.

Celtic: Bain, Toljan, Boyata (Bitton 74), Simunovic, Izaguirre (Hayes 83), Brown, McGregor, Weah, Christie, Sinclair (Johnston 73), Burke. Subs not used: Gordon, Bayo, Lustig, Henderson.

Hibernian: Marciano, Gray (Johnson 65), McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Milligan, Mackie, Slivka, Gauld (Mallan 59), Shaw (McNulty 45), Kamberi. Subs not used: Nelom, Bigirimana, Omeonga, Dabrowski

Ref: Craig Thomson

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