Celtic lose more ground on Rangers after Hibernian snatch late equaliser as Dubai trip comes back to haunt Neil Lennon’s depleted side January 12, 2021 – Posted in: Soccer
Celtic’s controversial Dubai trip came back to haunt them as the coronavirus-hit Parkhead side’s makeshift line-up allowed Kevin Nisbet to snatch a 1-1 draw for visitors Hibernian.
Boss Neil Lennon, his assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players sat out the game after being ordered to self-isolate on their return from their controversial Dubai training camp.
That ruling came after injured defender Christopher Jullien was confirmed to have contracted the virus while in the Middle East with his team-mates.
And there was another sickener for the reigning champions – who had first-team coach Gavin Strachan in the dugout – as Nisbet smashed home in injury-time to cancel out David Turnbull’s late free-kick.
The gamble in flying 3,000 miles during a global pandemic has well and truly backfired for Lennon and his team, who now find themselves 21 points behind runaway Premiership leaders Rangers, albeit with three games in hand.
The track and trace blow came just hours before kick-off as Celtic confirmed the game would go ahead without a host of their big names.
The latest farcical developments in a sorry saga for the Glasgow giants brought another rebuke from Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s First Minister again questioned whether the trip was ‘really essential’ before saying the football authorities should decide whether Celtic should face action.
That remains unlikely after Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell insisted the Hoops had broken no rules in travelling to the UAE.
But the biggest backlash is likely to come from the furious Celtic support, who have seen their club slip up time and again during a campaign in which they were supposed to fulfil their 10-in-a-row destiny.
Captain Scott Brown led the list of notable absentees, with no sign of first-choice goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas, defenders Kristopher Ajer and Hatem abd Elhamed, midfield men Mohamed Elyounoussi, Ryan Christie and Olivier Ntcham and strikers Odsonne Edouard, Leigh Griffiths and Albian Ajeti either.
Yet the champions were still able to field a team containing eight established first-teamers, while back-up stopper Conor Hazard and Stephen Welsh have both played a handful of games this season.
Hibs reluctantly lined up after failing with a late bid to force Celtic to retest their squad, having been warned by the SPFL they would face ‘severe consequences’ if they did not fulfil the fixture.