Celtic won the double after a comfortable 3-0 win over Hibernian at Hampden on May 26th 2013. Celtic’s front trio of Kris Commons, Gary Hooper and in particular Anthony Stokes ran the show, with the latter having a significant hand in all three goals.
Going by the opening 7 minutes, it appeared that Celtic would have a far more difficult afternoon ahead. Neil Lennon made the surprising choice of starting James Forrest in the centre of midfield – albeit the right-most of the three.
This made for an initial unbalanced feel to the side, and the energetic and fired-up Hibs took early initiative. Perhaps the Edinburgh side had been watching the frantic pressing of Dortmund the previous night, because they had Celtic pegged back and unable to settle.
But the good spell was short-lived, with the best chance falling to Eoin Doyle after 7 minutes. Ryan McGivern surged forward from left-back and dinked in a marvellous cross, which Doyle put straight at Fraser Forster from point-blank.
Hibs were widely considered underdogs having finished bottom-half of the SPL, and in such circumstances the underdogs have to turn those big chances in. Even more importantly, the underdog can’t lose soft goals like the opener a minute later. Stokes collected a wayward cross at the by-line, and Alan Maybury’s attempt at closing down was feeble. But nobody could expect the quality of Stokes’ delivery, good enough to make the goalkeeper look foolish and perfect for Hooper to tap in.
In spite of Celtic deploying an odd, unbalanced looking shape, in an attacking sense it created an
unpredictable dynamic for runners from deep. Commons essentially had a free role, drifting from the centre outwards in search of possession. Stokes and Hooper meanwhile continually tested the defensive line, whether running off the shoulder or dropping deep, making the ideal situation for through balls.
Forrest may not have been enjoying himself, but Joe Ledley was able to put into practice his USP – bursting forward from deep – which again contributed to an overloaded defence. Many of these factors were evident in the 2nd goal, with Commons dropping into the hole to start the move, Stokes dragging out wide, Ledley bursting into the box to occupy one centre-back and Hooper splitting Hanlon and his left-back. unpredictable dynamic for runners from deep.
Again, the quality of the cross was paramount, but the attacking ‘theme’ was clear.
Leigh Griffiths / Hibs shuffle
Griffiths – in his final appearance for Hibs of his loan spell – was clearly Hibs’ greatest attacking asset, and so getting him into the game was the priority. In the opening minutes, he was central to the action – getting his feet on the ball and linking up with the other attackers. But as the game drifted out of reach, so too did Griffiths.
Pat Fenlon was forced to gamble. Griffiths needs somebody in support yet the midfield battle was being lost. And so, unfortunately, safety came first with Griffiths strike partner Doyle absorbed by midfield, at first used on the left wing to help see out the half, and then for the second period used on the right.
At 2-0 down the dilemma probably had no solution, but the effect was for Griffiths to become ever-more isolated from proceedings.
Without the suspended Victor Wanyama and Beram Kayal, Neil Lennon had to make a gamble of his own in the centre of midfield. Hibs would’ve hoped to capitalise on Forrest’s uncertainty, and while he took stick for lacking effect (especially in comparison to his normal role as a blistering winger), he coped admirably.
Hibs required to take the big chances while defending resolutely. In the end they managed neither. Celtic’s midfield wobbled, but the defence stood firm and the front 3 were fantastic. Hooper clinical, Commons tricky, but Stokes deservedly man of the match.