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Celtic 1 Hibernian 0: Teemu effort wins day

TEEMU Pukki is a quiet type and not given to mouthing off.

Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre takes a dive in the box as Michael Nelson of Hibs turns away in angerPhotograph: Stewart Attwood
Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre takes a dive in the box as Michael Nelson of Hibs turns away in angerPhotograph: Stewart Attwood

"He's a shy boy by nature, we want to bring out his personality a bit," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon. To be fair, the Finn hasn't given himself or anyone else much to shout about, but yesterday he made an overdue statement that he can be of value to Celtic.

Having been bought from Schalke for £2.4 million, Pukki went 12 weeks and 14 appearances without a goal, including the Champions League group campaign. He has suffered more than anyone in the shadow of the departed Gary Hooper.

By popping in the winner against Hibernian at Parkhead, his total for the season inched forward from two to three. Still not nearly enough, but progress. When he was substituted after an hour there was a loud ovation from the stands. Goodwill washed over him from the supporters.

Pukki's tidy, natural finish after Emilio Izaguirre and Joe Ledley had opened up Hibs gave Celtic their goal after 28 minutes. It was a performance which saw their first-half control peter out in a weary and careless second period, but they remain seven points clear and unbeaten in 15 league games. Pukki has had too many anonymous, fruitless performances but he offered a little more this time, getting on the end of more crosses, and doing enough to please Lennon.

"He's not a prolific scorer and never has been, but we hope this will be the start of a run for him," Lennon said. "He might kick on and get a run of games and goals."

The manager added: "Hibs set out their stall from minute one with 10 men behind the ball and we had to make all the running. I think the team reacted well after Barcelona."

This was Parkhead post-Green Brigade, too. In the circumstances the atmosphere wasn't too bad. Songs periodically sprung up from around the home stands, more frequently than might have been expected given the midweek battering in the Camp Nou and the utterly foul weather.

Rain drove down on the pitch and the wind swirled around unpredictably, making life difficult for the players. At one point supporters around the now sparsely-occupied section 111 started a "stand up for the Green Brigade" chant. It didn't catch on.

For all their passing and pressure Celtic didn't create much. They had plenty of the ball, especially in the first half, but knocked it around without any flair or penetration that would have caused Hibs more problems. Kris Commons began hungrily but faded. Anthony Stokes had a couple of efforts dealt with by Ben Williams.

Hibs were organised and compact, getting two banks of bodies behind the ball to make life difficult for their hosts. For a long time they didn't bring much to the party, but towards half-time they began a little run of chances. The best of them was Scott Robertson's attempt to squirt a low, curling shot inside the far post. Fraser Forster did well to react and drop to save.

Celtic allowed Hibs to get a foothold in the game and it almost cost them. Efe Ambrose gave the ball away and Liam Craig smacked in a low shot which hit Forster's post. Paul Cairney was on to the rebound, but couldn't get a shot away and Izaguirre cleared.

The Honduran was suspended in midweek and made a solid return, especially during a first half in which he delivered some inviting crosses. His day was tarnished by a second-half booking for a dive when Michael Nelson came across to put in a challenge. Lennon exploded out of his dug-out in protest, but later admitted he was wrong.

Celtic gave the ball away too cheaply in the second half, Georgios Samaras was booked for kicking the ball away to waste time and Forster should have been in the book too for reacting with an angry shove. "I was really pleased with the way we played, with the effort and commitment," said Hibs manager Terry Butcher. "When we come to a place like this we have to keep the ball better and take the chances that come. But we were hard to beat and resilient." Butcher, laughing at his own eccentricity, revealed his pre-match team talk had included references to Lawrence of Arabia, George Washington and David and Goliath. Maybe it took his players an hour to digest what he was on about. They were more impressive in the second half than the first but Hibs competed well, as if their new manager's message is already beginning to getting through.

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