Bhoys cement second spot
Keane's penalty enough to see off Hibs
Last Updated: 04/04/10 3:37pm
Keane: Celtic's matchwinner
Celtic have bolstered their chances of finishing second in the SPL table following a 1-0 success over Hibs at Easter Road.
Robbie Keane's successful second-half penalty made it two wins out of two under caretaker boss Neil Lennon following Tony Mowbray's sacking.
Hibs won 2-1 at Parkhead back in January and John Hughes' side made a positive start with Lukasz Zaluska making two fine early saves.
The visitors were far from their best, but Anthony Stokes' high boot on Aiden McGeady gave them a second-half penalty which Keane converted.
Hibs came close to levelling when Derek Riordan's effort struck the crossbar, but that was as close as Hughes' side came to snatching a point.
With the Leith club in the throes of completing the re-building of their stadium, the backdrop to the game was a demolished east stand.
The threadbare pitch did little to embellish the surroundings but the home side looked in good condition in the early stages.
In the fourth minute Zaluska made a fine save from Ian Murray's header at the expense of a corner, and as the visitors failed to clear their lines properly Hibernian defender Sol Bamba hooked the ball over the bar from six yards.
Moments later the Polish goalkeeper made another good save, this time from Anthony Stokes, blocking the Irishman's angled drive after he had raced clear of the Celtic defence.
Celtic retaliated, with Bamba having to make a saving tackle on Marc-Antoine Fortune 10 yards out after the Celtic striker had been set up by McGeady.
In the 12th minute, Lee Naylor's corner from the right was headed back across goal at the far post by Georgios Samaras and Josh Thompson volleyed over.
Then referee Richmond ignored a penalty claim from Keane after he claimed Murray had handled the ball in the box when dispossessing the striker.
Play zipped from end to end with more pace and power than precision.
Hibs had the upper hand but only just, with the battle between Celtic defender Darren O'Dea and Hibs striker Colin Nish symbolising the meaty encounter.
As the game nudged over the half-hour mark Samaras had a 25-yard drive saved with some comfort by Graham Stack.
Stokes had the ball in the Celtic net in the 39th minute but the offside flag was already up.
As Celtic tried to impose themselves on the game Keane mis-kicked from Fortune's cross two minutes from the interval.
Celtic started the second half in seemingly more determined mood and McGeady, who had showed glimpses of skill earlier, cut inside and drove over the bar from 16 yards.
In the 57th minute, as the home side pressed with some purpose, Nish had an effort from 25 yards easily saved by Zaluska, moments before Stack had a similarly comfortable save to make from Fortune at the other end.
However, Celtic took the lead shortly after Hibs defender Steven Thicot was booked for a foul on Samaras 25 yards from goal.
Naylor's left-footed free-kick was pushed away by Stack for another corner but as the home side tried to clear their lines from the set-piece, Stokes raised his foot in challenging McGeady and Richmond pointed to the spot.
Keane stepped up and rifled the penalty to Stack's right-hand side and took the acclaim of the Celtic fans behind the goal.
Hibs staggered for a few moments but almost drew level in the 68th minute when former Hoops star Derek Riordan, who hitherto had been disappointing, sent a shot from 25 yards crashing off the top of the Celtic bar.
Riordan and John Rankin were replaced by Danny Galbraith and Abdessalam Benjelloun as the Leith side tried to get back level.
However, the expected late Hibs onslaught failed to materialise, leaving Celtic to leave with three more SPL points and Lennon to depart with more brownie points.