Celtic Captain Callum McGregor lifts the Premier Sports Cup Trophy during the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park, on December 19, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Ange Postecoglou clinched his first piece of silverware as Celtic manager after watching his side come from behind to beat managerless Hibernian 2-1 in a pulsating Premier Sports Cup final at Hampden Park.
The Hoops, who last lifted the trophy in season 2019/20 were bidding for a 20th triumph in the competition and they had the returning Kyogo Furuhashi to thank for securing the comeback win.
Postecoglou was handed a pre-match boost after his lead striker was passed fit to start the after recovering from a recent hamstring strain, with Greg Taylor, Tom Rogic and Mikey Johnston also returning to the starting line-up.
Anthony Ralston, match-winner against Ross County in midweek, dropped to the bench alongside Liam Scales, Nir Bitton and Adam Montgomery.
A largely one-sided opening 45 minutes saw the Glasgow giants struggle to turn their dominance into goals.
Liel Abada’s dangerous cross from the right just evaded Kyogo on the stretch after five minutes before David Turnbull had a deflected effort fly narrowly wide of the target.
Mikey Johnston was next to threaten on 12 minutes when he received the ball on the left touchline before leaving full-back Paul McGinn flat-footed. The winger cut inside but was forced off-balance just as he pulled the trigger.
Celtic’s injury troubles had been well publicised in recent weeks and Turnbull was the latest name to be added to that list when he limped off after 26 minutes to be replaced by Nir Bitton. The Scotland international was visibly distraught as he left the field.
Josip Juranovic then blazed a free-kick over the crossbar from 25-yards as the first-half drew to a close.
The match burst into life just five minutes into the second period as the visitors broke the deadlock against the run of play, having failed to register a shot on target before the break.
A corner from the right was met in the air by Paul Hanlon, whose towering header bounced of Juranovic before creeping over the line, despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Joe Hart to keep the ball out.
The Easter Road outfit held their narrow advantage for all of 60 seconds as Celtic responded straight from the restart.
Skipper Callum McGregor picked out Kyogo in space inside the box and the Japanese frontman coolly slotted the ball low past Matt Macey at his front post.
Play continued to rage from end to end as Carl Starfelt’s mistake allowed Kevin Nisbet to break into the area but the striker’s shot was well saved by the boot of Hart.
That missed opportunity would prove costly for the capital club as a moment of individual brilliance from Kyogo handed Celtic the lead after 71 minutes.
A quickly taken free-kick from Rogic caught the Hibees defence napping as the 26-year-old expertly lobbed the ball over the on-rushing Macey.
Furuhashi would receive a standing ovation from the Parkhead faithful as he made way for youngster Owen Moffat with eight minutes remaining. The 19-year-old has been a standout performer for the club’s ‘B’ team this season.
Macey was called into action moments later to deny Rogic as Postecoglou’s men looked to press home their slender advantage.
Hibernian were not out of the contest by any means and Nisbet watched his header agonisingly bounce off the left-hand post on 88 minutes.
The woodwork also thwarted Abada in the second minute of injury-time as the Israeli’s shot had the beating of Macey but cannoned back off the post.
Celtic will have to win far greater prizes if they want to restore their position as the dominant force in Scottish football, but in the short-term, victory extended their unbeaten run at the national stadium to 18 games as the Postecoglou revolution begins to build up ahead of steam.
Celtic: Hart, Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor (Ralston; 74), McGregor, Turnbull (Bitton; 26), Abada, Rogic, Johnston (Scales; 83), Kyogo (Moffat; 82)
Unused: Bain (GK), McCarthy, Shaw, Montgomery, Welsh
Hibernian: Macey, McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon, Stevenson (Doig; 80), Doyle-Hayes, Newell, Boyle, Campbell (Allan; 72), Murphy (Doidge; 80), Nisbet
Unused: Dabrowski (GK), Wright, Gogic, McGregor, Scott, Cadden
Referee: John Beaton