Scottish Premiership: Celtic 1 Hibernian 1
Celtic’s controversial Dubai trip came back to haunt them as the coronavirus-hit Parkhead side’s makeshift line-up allowed Kevin Nisbet to snatch a 1-1 draw for visitors Hibernian.
Boss Neil Lennon, his assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players sat out the game after being ordered to self-isolate on their return from their controversial Dubai training camp.
That ruling came after injured defender Christopher Jullien was confirmed to have contracted the virus while in the Middle East with his team-mates. And there was another sickener for the reigning champions — who had first-team coach Gavin Strachan in the dugout — as Nisbet smashed home in injury-time to cancel out David Turnbull’s late free-kick.
“We thought we’d got it,” said Turnbull. “It’s been strange but we’ve just tried to get our head around it.”
The gamble in flying 3,000 miles during a global pandemic has well and truly backfired for Lennon and his team, who now find themselves 21 points behind runaway Premiership leaders Rangers, albeit with three games in hand.
The latest farcical developments in a sorry saga brought another rebuke from Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s First Minister.
Hibs reluctantly lined up after failing with a late bid to force Celtic to retest their squad, having been warned by the SPFL they would face “consequences” if they did not fulfil the fixture.
It was no surprise to see them take the game to their hosts early on and they created three chances inside the first 10 minutes. Celtic did better to close the gaps after that but were hardly dominant.
It appeared, however, that Turnbull had got the hosts out of jail with eight minutes left. Brought down by Hibs sub Stephen McGinn, he got up to whip a fabulous free-kick over the wall and past Macey.
But Celtic’s Achilles heel was exposed yet again 60 seconds into stoppage time when the visitors equalised.
Stevie Mallan’s free-kick was met by Paul McGinn as he climbed over Turnbull. Shane Duffy cleared the ball off the line but only as far as Nisbet, who rammed home from close range.
CELTIC: Hazard, Frimpong, Welsh, Duffy, Laxalt, Soro, McGregor, Turnbull, Rogic (Henderson 67), Johnston (Dembele 79), Harper (Okoflex 61).
HIBERNIAN: Macey, Paul McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon, Doig (Stevenson 46), Gogic, Wright (Doidge 52), Hallberg (Stephen McGinn 80), Newell (Mallan 69), Nisbet, Murphy.