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- Dutch International striker, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, flew into Scotland at 3 o'clock this morning, and came off the bench to make his debut, and score the winner for Celtic.
Marshall, Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura (Sno 90), Lennon, Pearson, McGeady, Zurawski, Miller, (Vennegoor of Hesselink 51).
Subs not used:- McGovern, Cuthbert, Telfer, Beattie, Jarosik.
Goals:- Zurawski 62, Vennegoor of Hesselink 66.
Malkowski, Whittaker, Martis, Jones, J Shields, Thomson, Stewart, Brown, Zemmama, (Killen 66), Fletcher (McCluskey 75), Benjelloun (Sproule 40).
Subs not used:- McNeill, Hogg, Konde, Shiels
Goal:- Brown 8
Referee:- C Richmond.
Match ReportCeltic 2 Hibernian 1:
Debut striker makes his name
Douglas Alexander at Celtic Park
SCOTTISH football, so badly in need of star quality, now has a couple of new names to conjure with. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink is the bigger one in all respects but Merouane Zemmama, a Moroccan of slight stature but substantial skill, should deservedly share top billing from this match. He might have won it for Hibernian, before the Dutchman did so for Celtic.
After Zemmama inspired Hibs into taking an early lead, Celtic laboured but managed to turn the game their way with two goals scored just after the hour. Maciej Zurawski poached the first in the penalty box when Lee Naylor, Celtic’s other new signing, crossed from the left after robbing Scott Brown in the box. Aiden McGeady’s pass was the prelude, and the Irish international would also provoke the winner by spearing at the centre of Hibs’ defence and then hitting a post with a precise, if trundling, shot. Vennegoor of Hesselink was literally on the rebound before you could say his name.
The Dutchman’s general play was impressive, too, particularly in the muscular craft he provided in Hibs’ penalty box to give his side’s attacks a focus which they had previously lacked. Celtic must hope that in the 27-year-old Dutchman they have found a synthesis of Chris Sutton and John Hartson. A mouthful for commentators, he also proved a handful for Rob Jones and Shelton Martis, the Hibs centre-backs, who had coped with most of what Celtic had thrown at them until his introduction six minutes into the second half. “The big lad is going to give a lot of people problems,” said Tony Mowbray, the visiting manager.
The Dutchman had only been on the pitch for 15 minutes when he scored, a feat Kenny Miller had not managed from five starts in the Premierleague and 13 games in all, including a marathon programme of pre-season friendlies in Poland, the United States and England. A selfless chaser of lost causes into the corners, poor Miller lacks the predatory instincts of the two scorers and may have to make way for what promises to be a productive partnership between them.
Ironically, he could break his duck at Celtic Park by scoring there for Scotland against the Faroe Islands in Saturday’s European championship qualifier, a match that Walter Smith, the national team manager who watched yesterday, has already confirmed he will start. Gordon Strachan, his club manager, did not patronise him with sympathy. “You are going to have difficult periods whether you are a player or a manager. You’ve just got to deal with it.”
Heralded by Mowbray as something special, Zemmama lived up to the billing immediately, bewitching Mark Wilson, stepping inside Stephen Pearson and shooting under David Marshall’s dive only for Stephen McManus to clear off the line. Yet the goal was not delayed for long. Zemmama spurted away from Neil Lennon in the centre circle and then slid an impeccable diagonal pass inside Naylor, who was still getting his bearings in his new home. Brown met it with a sidefoot finish of calm quality.
It remains to be seen if Zemmama can sustain his skills through a Scottish winter. Hicham Zerouali, who later died in a car crash, was initially impressive for Aberdeen but couldn’t find consistency. Yet Mowbray, having signed the 23-year-old on a contract until 2010 that Jim McLean might have drawn up in his draconian days at Dundee United, does not seem to have many doubts. “He’s a confident boy who gets on the ball and doesn’t shirk the big arenas.”
Apart from the constant teasing skills of Zemmama, there was plenty of cocksure passing from the likes of Brown, Kevin Thomson and Michael Stewart. Lennon and Pearson in the middle for Celtic were quite overwhelmed in this area without Stilian Petrov, who was fit but left out, which may mean he soon joins Martin O’Neill, his former manager, at Aston Villa.
There is hope for any side facing Hibs until Mowbray finally solves his goalkeeping problem, however. He alternates between Simon Brown and Zbigniew Malkowski but neither convinces. When the Pole spilled a volley from Lennon, Shunsuke Nakamura almost capitalised and later hit the bar with a free kick. Another pressure point for the home side was on the left wing where McGeady had the beating of Steven Whittaker, who is still far more impressive coming forward than he is defending.
Nevertheless, Celtic could not commit as lustily to attack as they wished to because Hibs’ passes were frequently piercing. Stewart, looking far leaner and fitter this season, found Abdessalam Benjelloun, who turned both Gary Caldwell and Naylor in the corner of the box and seemed to be caught by one of them before scooping a shot over while grounded. Another breakout from Hibs ended in acrimony, Brown taking exception to a tackle from Pearson and Benjelloun losing the plot with a barge on the Celtic midfielder. The Moroccan striker escaped with a booking but was soon removed from the fray by Mowbray in any case. “I was just protecting him from the official, he seemed to have his eye on Benji and there might have been a danger of a second yellow card.”
Ivan Sproule, Benjelloun’s replacement, was soon racing onto yet another Zemmama pass but could not screw his finish into the net. This pattern persisted into the second half with Stewart robbing Nakamura, when the Japanese midfielder was played into trouble by McManus, and setting Sproule off running again for another shot which Marshall, getting his angles right, stopped.
So Hibs departed with only Strachan’s compliments as consolation. “We always have good games against Hibs. It’s easy for me because I have got the big crowd behind me and some money but to play as bravely as they do is first class.”
Star Man: Merouane Zemmama (Hibs)
Player Ratings: Celtic:
Wilson 6, Caldwell 6, McManus 6, Naylor 6,
Nakamura 6 (Sno 90min, 6), Lennon 5, Pearson 6, McGeady 7,
Zurawski 6, Miller 5 (Vennegoor of Hesselink 51min, 7)
Hibs: Malkowski 5, Whittaker 5, Martis 6, Jones 6, J Shields 5, Thomson 8, Stewart 7, Brown 6, Zemmama 8 (Killen 66min, 5), Fletcher 5 (McCluskey 75min, 5), Benjelloun 5 (Sproule 40min, 5)
Scorers: Celtic: Zurawski 62, Vennegoor of Hesselink 66. Hibs: Brown 7
Referee: C Richmond