NORMALLY, a thrilling comeback from two goals down to earn a point away from home would be treated like a victory, but the body language of the Celtic players as they trooped off the pitch moments after their injury-time equaliser at Easter Road spoke volumes.

Those players know that in Celtic’s position, even at this still early stage of the season, they simply can’t afford to be spilling points with the frequency by which they currently are. They may have shown plenty of guts here to at least grab a point from the jaws of defeat, but they also showed plenty of deficiencies to suggest that they don’t possess the reliability to turn around a run of form that has now garnered just two wins from eight games.

As for Hibernian, they will be gutted not to have seen the match out from what seemed an unassailable position, especially as the goals they lost were avoidable to say the least.

There is of course still a long way to go in the Premiership title race before it is run, but this afternoon in Leith may well be seen in retrospect as a key moment where Celtic’s 10-in-a-row dream came unstuck. When Jamie Murphy arrived at Ibrox a few seasons ago, he spoke of his dream to help Rangers win the league. It may have taken him until he was at Easter Road on loan, but the Hibernian attacker might just have managed it at last.

The first of Hibs goals owed much though to the recklessness of Celtic captain Scott Brown, who needlessly barged Martin Boyle in the area when the Hibs winger wasn’t really going anywhere in particular. Bain almost bailed him out by saving Kevin Nisbet’s penalty, but Murphy was on hand to tuck home the rebound.

When Nisbet finally got his goal soon after, there only looked to be one winner, but Celtic were handed a route back into the match with a little over 10 minutes remaining as Paul McGinn handled in the area and Odsonne Edouard tucked away the resultant penalty, which looked the only way they were going to get the ball past the inspired Ofir Marciano.

Alas, they were able to repeat the trick in injury-time, though again the goal owed much to the generosity of the opposition. This time it was Paul Hanlon who erred as the ball cannoned around the penalty area following a Celtic fee-kick, and Diego Laxalt popped up to lash the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards and allow his side to leave Leith with a point and their title hopes still just about intact.

Despite the comeback, Neil Lennon’s position will now come under fresh scrutiny, with the Celtic boss perhaps feeling that the emphatic win at Motherwell last time out and the international break had relieved some of the pressure that was on his shoulders.

He wanted to regain something of that momentum gained at Fir Park, and so named the same XI from that day. That meant a place on the bench again for Edouard, despite the Frenchman rediscovering his goalscoring touch while away on international duty. At least that’s the only thing he brought back this time, which is more than can be said for David Turnbull, the midfielder ruled out after returning a positive Coronavirus test upon his return from Scotland under-21 duty.

There were a few openings in the goalless first half, and most of them fell for Celtic, with Ryan Christie looking lively. He must be sick of the sight of Israel keeper Marciano right enough, with the Hibs number one denying him on three occasions to follow up his clean sheet for his country against Christie’s Scotland on Wednesday night.

Celtic were stunned though five minutes after the restart as Brown was penalised for a barge on Boyle. There may have been little in it, but Brown didn’t need to give Bobby Madden a decision to make.

The spot-kick was duly awarded, and although Bain did well to get down low and save Nisbet’s effort, the rebound was tucked in off the post by Murphy.

It was time for Celtic to call on the cavalry, and Edouard replaced the ineffective Ajeti, but his task was made all the more difficult just before the hour.

Again, Murphy was central to it, cleverly nodding a cross-field ball into the path of Nisbet, who made amends for his penalty miss by firing across Bain and in off the same post that Murphy’s effort had kissed a little earlier.

Edouard almost hauled the visitors back into it, his first powerful shot saved well by Marciano low to his left, before a second stinging shot was palmed away high to the Hibs’ keeper’s right.

The keeper couldn’t keep the striker out for a third time though after Celtic were awarded a penalty of their own, the ball coming up off the arm of McGinn and the Frenchman finally beating Marciano to his right. Game on.

Just as Hibs thought they had got over the line though, hesitation from Hanlon handed Celtic their lifeline, but there will be many of their fans who feel that the late Laxalt rescue mission papered over some alarming cracks.