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SPL title race goes to wire after Celtic win

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 11 May 2008

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Celtic moved four points clear in the Scottish Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Hibernian in their final home game of the season on Sunday.

Captain Stephen McManus and Australian striker Scott McDonald scored in each half to secure the win for the SPL holders, who finish their campaign away to Dundee United.

Celtic's win almost certainly ensures the championship will be decided on the final day of the season, with Rangers still having three games to play.

Hibs, meanwhile, ended the game with only nine men after Martin Canning and Ian Murray were sent off late on, and the result ended their hopes of catching Motherwell, who will now finish third to qualify for next season's UEFA Cup.

Celtic's first chance of the match arrived in the eighth minute.

McDonald's cross found his strike partner Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and from 16 yards the Dutch player powered a header inches wide.

Seconds later Barry Robson had a chance, when Hibs goalkeeper Andrew McNeil failed to hold Aiden McGeady's shot, but the former Dundee United midfielder blasted over.

And then Gary Caldwell's downward header, from Robson's corner, produced a fine save by McNeil to prevent the opener in the 13th minute.

Hibs, though, were still dangerous on the break.

Steven Fletcher forced Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc into action with a shot on the turn from 20-yards in the 24th minute which required the Polish goalkeeper to push over his crossbar.

But in the 37th minute Celtic finally found the back of the net.

Shunsuke Nakamura's corner was met by McManus who directed his header into the corner of the net beyond McNeil.

Celtic almost doubled their advantage in the 44th minute when a trademark 25-yard free-kick from Japanese playmaker Nakamura curled over the Hibs wall and goalkeeper only to rebound off the post.

McDonald should have scored in the second minute of the second half when Nakamura put him through on goal.

The Australian rounded McNeil but his first shot was cleared off the line by Murray, and when the ball fell back at McDonald's feet he tried to score again from a tight angle – instead of squaring for Vennegoor of Hesselink and Paul Hartley – and again the Hibs defender blocked.

Celtic were still doing most of the pressing and McGeady came close in the 62nd minute with a shot from 18 yards which was just too high.

But in the 66th minute Hibs almost snatched an equaliser.

John Rankin's corner was headed back across goal and French midfielder Guillaume Beuzelin's volley required Boruc to make a fine point-blank save.

Hibs substitute Clayton Donaldson then tested Boruc again in the 71st minute with a left-shot requiring the Polish keeper to push round his post low to his right.

The visitors were now looking more dangerous and a free-kick from Portuguese player Filipe Morais was comfortably saved by Boruc in the 75th minute.

However, in the 83rd minute Hibs were reduced to 10 men when Martin Canning picked up a second yellow card for a late tackle on Robson.

Celtic finally secured the points in the 87th minute when Robson's free-kick skimmed off the head of Donaldson at the front post leaving McDonald with the simple task of nodding the ball home at the back post.

And in injury time Hibs' Ian Murray was harshly shown a straight red card for a foul on McGeady as he raced up the wing.

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