Daizen Maeda netted four minutes into his Celtic debut as they blew away Hibernian in a pulsating Scottish Premiership first-half performance.
In the opening game after the league’s winter break, striker Daizen swept in moments after Hibs’ Kevin Nisbet had passed up a glorious chance in Glasgow.
Josip Juranovic added a second from the spot in a relentless first period.
The visitors were far more resolute after the break, but the damage was done in the opening 45 minutes.
The win stretches Celtic’s unbeaten league run to 15 games and narrows the gap on leaders Rangers, who travel to Aberdeen on Tuesday, to three points.
As for Hibs, who remain fifth, boss Shaun Maloney’s first managerial defeat comes at his former club after back-to-back victories before the break.
Football has a habit of moving quickly, and the fact Celtic’s League Cup final triumph over Hibs was only four weeks ago is evidence of that.
Given both sides had played two games each following the final before a three-week winter shutdown, you would be forgiven for assuming the showpiece event was further in the distance.
Hibs have a new boss in their dugout, while four debutants across both teams were treated to their first taste of Scottish football.
And it was Celtic’s debutant striker Daizen who notched early after a lightning start to the game.
In truth, the Japanese striker should not have had the chance to sweep in. Not just because of Hibs’ slack play, which allowed Tom Rogic to slide the ball across to the forward who had acres of space in the box to finish low, but also due to Nisbet’s incredible miss moments earlier.
Chris Cadden’s low cross found the Hibs striker free at the back post with the goal to aim at, but the Scotland cap went with his wrong foot and clipped the far post.
Daizen’s opener spooked Hibs and fuelled Celtic’s electric tempo as Postecoglou’s men hunted in packs for a second.
A spell of relentless pressure resulted in the home side being awarded a penalty when Greg Taylor’s stunning ball over the top was plucked out the sky by Liel Abada, with the winger’s first touch coming off the outstretched arm of Josh Doig.
Referee Willie Collum pointed to the spot, allowing Juranovic to slot into the bottom-right corner.
A rare venture forward from Hibs saw dangerous shots from Nisbet and Josh Campbell blocked, but Maloney’s men were creating their own problems in defence.
Debutant Celtic midfielder Reo Hatate, who was hugely impressive throughout, had a half volley parried away by Matt Macey before James Forrest’s deflected effort whistled past the far post.
Celtic searched for a third after the break as Reo slashed wide from close range and Carl Starfelt’s flick on resulted in Abada sliding an effort off the back post.
But the home side’s performance became more about control with the second half progressing as Celtic saw out the game comfortably.
Man of the match – Reo Hatate
What did we learn?
Throughout the first half of the campaign, Celtic’s attacking threat was often blunt without talisman Kyogo Furuhashi leading the line.
A lack of intensity was always evident without the Japanese forward, but fellow countryman Daizen looks like he will provide a similar impact.
The forward’s lightning pace and movement offers Postecoglou a like-for-like profile and more depth in his frontline, something that had previously been badly lacking.
Midfielder Reo’s introduction will also offer optimism to the Celtic boss, as well as the return of influential winger Jota, as the Parkhead side look to hunt down leaders Rangers.
Hibs’ depleted backline was always going to struggle at Celtic Park, and could have caved after the break, but Maloney’s defence were masters of their own downfall in the first half.
Continually they gave the ball away cheaply in dangerous areas, but patience will be required as the former Belgium coach adapts his style of play.
What did they say?
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “I think we were in control for the whole 90 minutes. We started the game with really good energy and tempo and we could have had one or two more if we weren’t as wasteful.
“Second half we didn’t create as much, but we were still in control. That’s the balancing act of having a few weeks break, they were fresh and ready but maybe a bit rusty in a few areas.”
Hibernian manager Shaun Maloney: “I have mixed feelings about that one, definitely some things to improve on, but very, very pleased with parts of the game.
“It was a big test for our players with Celtic going ahead early. We need to be more aggressive when we do get through their line of pressure, but that’s for me to work on, I’m the coach.”
Both sides embark on their Scottish Cup quests next time out as Hibernian host League 1 leaders Cove Rangers on Thursday (19:45 GMT) live on BBC Scotland while Celtic travel to Alloa Athletic on Saturday (17:30).
- 18RogicBooked at 63mins
- 41HatateSubstituted forIdeguchiat 75′minutes
- 11AbadaSubstituted forJohnstonat 75′minutes
- 38MaedaSubstituted forGiakoumakisat 74′minutes
- 49ForrestSubstituted forNeves Filipeat 82′minutes
- 17Neves Filipe
- 33BushiriBooked at 77mins
- 3DoigSubstituted forStevensonat 66′minutes
- 11NewellSubstituted forAllanat 75′minutes
- 22Doyle-HayesBooked at 58mins
- 32CampbellSubstituted forMurphyat 57′minutes
- 8WrightSubstituted forBradleyat 75′minutes
- 15NisbetSubstituted forScottat 66′minutes
- William Collum
Match ends, Celtic 2, Hibernian 0.
Second Half ends, Celtic 2, Hibernian 0.
Jamie Murphy (Hibernian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Yosuke Ideguchi (Celtic).
Attempt blocked. Jota (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Scott Allan (Hibernian).
Jota (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Tomas Rogic (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Yosuke Ideguchi.
Attempt blocked. Jamie Murphy (Hibernian) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Martin Boyle.
Scott Allan (Hibernian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Giorgos Giakoumakis (Celtic).
Rocky Bushiri (Hibernian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Giorgos Giakoumakis (Celtic).
Substitution, Celtic. Jota replaces James Forrest.
Offside, Celtic. Michael Johnston tries a through ball, but Giorgos Giakoumakis is caught offside.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Lewis Stevenson.
Attempt blocked. James Forrest (Celtic) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tomas Rogic.
Rocky Bushiri (Hibernian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Rocky Bushiri (Hibernian).
Giorgos Giakoumakis (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.