By Matthew Lindsay

CUP wins are nothing especially new for Celtic – their triumph over Hibernian in the semi-final of the Betfred Cup at Hampden on Saturday evening was their 30th in succession.

But the quality of the treble treble winners’ all-round performance and the margin of their victory at the weekend was remarkable even by their own high standards; they dominated the encounter from kick-off, scored no fewer than five goals, hit the post twice and gave opposition goalkeeper Chris Maxwell a torrid night.

Hibs’ woes – they were a point off bottom spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership and winless in five games going into the fixture – continued unabated. They showed great fighting spirit to net at 2-0 and 4-1. But that is unlikely to placate the supporters who are running out of patience with manager Paul Heckingbottom.

So what did we learn from events in Mount Florida? Will Celtic maintain their domestic dominance and lift their 10th consecutive trophy? Can Heckingbottom survive at Hibs?


The Europa League game against Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday night is a far more difficult proposition than the Betfred Cup semi-final against Hibs at Hampden was on Saturday.

Their opponents are packed with world-class performers – not least up front where Ciro Immobile is, unlike in their previous encounter, set to start – and will have the majority of the crowd behind them.

Hibs had been on a dire run – they are a point off bottom spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership table and were winless in 10 matches – going into the last four tie and their followers were vastly outnumbered.

Still, Scott Brown and his team mates will take to the field in Rome confident they can maintain their unbeaten record in Group E, and possibly even win and book their place in the last 32 of the competition, after an accomplished display.

Neil Lennon’s charges, worthy 2-1 winners in their meeting with Simone Inzaghi’s men last month, will need to be better defensively than they were last time around, when two outstanding saves from Fraser Forster ensured they wrapped up three points, and at the weekend, when they conceded two soft goals.

But if they can tighten up at the back, match their performance levels going forward and show the same ruthlessness in the final third they have every chance of recording the first win on Italian soil in their history.


The Norwegian winger - who joined on a season-long loan deal from Southampton, where he had fallen out of favour, in August – had done well and established himself as an automatic first team selection before the game on Saturday.

But his display against Hibs was a step up on what had gone before; he scored twice, supplied the assists for two others and was denied a hat-trick by the woodwork. The skilful 25-year-old has wonderful feet, good vision, is comfortable on the ball, reads the game intelligently and is a clinical finisher.

He had a rare off night in the 2-1 win over Lazio last month and will doubtless be determined to make amends in the rematch with the Serie A side in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Thursday evening. You wouldn’t bet against him doing exactly that. He has the ability to unlock an opposition defence.

Elyounoussi cost his parent club a cool £15 million and is on Premier League wages which the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders are unable to match. The chances of securing his services on a permanent deal are slim. But stranger things have happened. The Glasgow club should certainly do their utmost to make his stay long-term.


The Northern Irishman has won the Premiership four times and the Scottish Cup on three occasions as a Celtic manager. He has also guided the Glasgow outfit to the knockout rounds of the Champions League in the past. Victory in this Betfred-sponsored competition, however, has so far eluded him.

The final defeats to Rangers, after extra-time, in 2011 and Kilmarnock in 2012 still rankle. Lennon insisted the club’s success is all that matters to him. But he will be determined to put that right when the Glasgow club return to Hampden on Sunday, December 8. If his side play as well as this they have a good chance.

“I know I’ve not won the League Cup as a manager,” he said. “But keeping this run going in the cup competitions is driving me. It’s about the players, not about me. It’s about their records and what it means for the club. I’m just thrilled to be in the final.”


Ronald Gordon, the Peruvian-born, United States-based businessman who bought the majority shareholding in the Easter Road club in July, was back in Scotland last week and took in the Hibs matches against Livingston and Celtic.

He is unlikely to have been impressed with too much of what he witnessed and is certain to have sensed the growing hostility in the stands towards the man in the dugout.

Heckingbottom stressed on Saturday night that he remains confident he can turn around the capital clubs’ fortunes. It shouldn’t be forgotten his men were unbeaten in six outings before the weekend. But defeat to St Johnstone in Perth on Saturday could, just as it did with Craig Levein at Hearts last week, bring an end to his tenure.


The Scottish champions promised to introduce “further measures” to stop a small minority of their supporters using pyrotechnics after they were disciplined by UEFA for the conduct of their fans in the Europa League match against Cluj last month.

That can’t happen soon enough given the antics of the ultra element of their following at the weekend. Flares and smoke cannisters were set off before and during the semi-final and rockets were even launched. If such behaviour continues somebody is going to get hurt, possibly seriously.