Celtic get off to winning start
South Korea's Ki Sung-Yeung was among the goalscorers as Celtic made a confident start to their Scottish title challenge with a 2-0 win over Hibernian in Edinburgh.
Ki netted Celtic's decisive second goal midway through the second half at Easter Road after Anthony Stokes had given Neil Lennon's team an early lead following a mistake from Hibs goalkeeper Graham Stack. Celtic's margin of victory could have been even greater, but Stack redeemed himself by denying a second-half penalty from Gary Hooper.
After being pipped to the title by bitter rivals Rangers on the final day of last season, today's result was an ideal way for Celtic to kick-off their bid to take the crown from Ibrox for the first time in four years.
Rangers had been held to a lacklustre draw by Hearts on Saturday and Lennon's side took advantage to establish an early lead over their main rivals. Lennon saluted Ki's contribution, stating: "Ki has been consistent over the last 18 months and is developing nicely into a top class player. He showed all his attributes, good presence, good passing and got a goal."
The Hoops manager was also impressed with the way his team took control in the second half. "I thought we were outstanding in the second half. It was probably more than I could have expected at this stage of the season," Lennon said.
"I am obviously delighted with the performance, result and clean sheet. I thought the players adapted brilliantly."
Lennon debuted defender Kelvin Wilson after his move from Nottingham Forest, while his other new signings Victor Wanyama and Adam Matthews were left on the bench. Sean O'Hanlon made his debut for Hibs and Garry O'Connor and Ivan Sproule made their second debuts after returning to Easter Road.
Initially it seemed the earlier than usual start to the Scottish Premier League season might trouble Celtic and Hibs midfielder David Wotherspoon caused problems with an in-swinging cross that nearly crept in at Lukasz Zaluska's near post. Wilson then had to be alert to clear from inside his six-yard box and thwart the lurking O'Connor.
Stokes fires home
However, Celtic took the lead in the 14th minute when former Arsenal trainee Stack made a hash of catching a Kris Commons' free-kick which slipped through his grasp and reached Stokes at the far post. The former Hibs striker showed great composure to take the ball down with his first touch and curl a shot high over the heads of several Hibs defenders into the roof of the net.
Colin Calderwood's team had their best chance to equalise early in the second half when Sproule latched on to Callum Booth's defence-splitting pass. However, Sproule allowed Wilson to catch him and end the attack with a well-timed tackle that brought desperate penalty appeals from the home fans.
Ki, 22, showed him how to do it in the 63rd minute when he took a pass from Stokes and drilled his low shot past Stack from 25 yards to increase Celtic's lead. O'Connor should have converted Sproule's cross moments later and Hibs' woes looked set to continue when Celtic won a penalty after Emilio Izaguirre's clever check-back forced Sproule into a foul right on the edge of the area.
Stack kept it a two-goal deficit, however, as he dived to his right to push Hooper's spot-kick onto a post before helping clear the rebound.
In the day's other game, Dundee United's Danny Swanson scored a late equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw that denied new Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels his first victory. Rory McKeown put Killie ahead with a superb long-range effort one minute after half-time, but Swanson fired home in the 70th minute to ensure the points were shared at Tannadice.