Bhoys go four clear
Bhoys keep title dream alive as Hibs miss out on Europe
Last Updated: 11/05/08 2:55pm
McManus celebrates his opener
Celtic restored their four-point lead at the top of the SPL with a 2-0 win over Hibernian at Parkhead.
Goals in each half from skipper Stephen McManus and top scorer Scott McDonald were enough to give Gordon Strachan's men the points and keep the pressure on Rangers who have two games in hand on their Old Firm rivals.
Hibs ended the game with just nine men after Martin Canning and Ian Murray both saw red for the visitors.
The defeat ends Hibs' hopes of finishing third, meaning Motherwell will play in the Uefa Cup next season.
It was a nervy start, however, from the home side. Keeper Artur Boruc had to foil Ross Campbell by rushing from his goals before beating away a Dean Shiels' shot for a corner which caused less panic.
The home side fought back and top scorer Scott McDonald crossed for partner Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink to head just wide of the target from 16 yards, followed soon after by a Barry Robson effort from close range which went high over the bar.
Celtic were into their stride and in the 13th minute Gary Caldwell's back post header from a Robson corner was cleared off the line by Hibs skipper Rob Jones.
As a bright and breezy game continued, McDonald then fired wide from the edge of the Hibs box.
Boruc was called in to action again when he had to tip over a powerful Steven Fletcher drive from 20 yards with the home side again defending the set-piece.
In the 26th minute Robson rose highest to meet a Shunsuke Nakamura corner but his header flew wide of the far post.
Celic broke the deadlock on 36 minutes when McManus rose to power home a Shunsuke Nakamura corner.
Two minutes before the break, after Jones had fouled McDonald 25 yards from goal, Nakamura beat McNeil with his curling free-kick only to see the ball rebound off the post before it was cleared to safety.
Celtic should have doubled their lead within two minutes of the restart when, on the counter from another poor Hibs corner, Nakamura sent McDonald clear on goal.
The Australian rounded McNeil but his angled shot was blocked by Ian Murray, as was his second attempt from the rebound, and the Easter Road side were able to breath again - but only for a few moments.
After Jones clattered Vennegoor of Hesselink 25 yards out, McNeil was forced into a fine save from another Nakamura free-kick which looked to be creeping in at the post.
Hibs continued to weave some pretty patterns but it was the home side who retained the real goal threat, although McDonald should have done better than blast the ball over the bar from 14 yards just before the hour-mark.
Aiden McGeady went closer in the 62nd minute when he turned inside Murray at the edge of the Hibs box and drove inches over the bar. The nerves grew as the home side struggled to add to their precarious lead, and after John Rankin's corner was headed back across goal by Jones, Beuzelin's volley from eight yards out was brilliantly blocked by Boruc.
Boruc had to throw himself low to his right to save from Hibernian substitute Clayton Donaldson, who had replaced Ross Campbell.
The Easter Road side knew defeat would end their Uefa Cup hopes and they piled forward looking for the crucial equaliser.
But in the 83rd minute Hibernian defender Martin Canning, already on a yellow card, was sent off after an overly robust challenge on Robson and that was the end of their European hopes.
Three minutes later a long Robson free-kick was deflected by Morais to the back post to McDonald who headed in from six yards for his 31st goal of the season.
Then Ian Murray was shown a straight red for a foul on McGeady to end a miserable day for Hibs.