Celtic 2-0 Hearts: Hosts go two points clear at top

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Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi knocked in the opener to score for the third successive game
Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi knocked in the opener to score for the third successive game

Celtic moved two points clear at the Scottish Premiership summit after an awkward test against much-changed Hearts, who ended with nine men.

The hosts capitalised on Rangers’ draw at Hibernian, but first-half dominance yielded only Kyogo Furuhashi’s strike.

Hearts improved markedly after the break to disrupt Celtic’s rhythm before losing Alex Cochrane and Toby Sibbick to second yellows late on.

Giorgos Giakoumakis completed a deserved win in the closing seconds.

It maintains Celtic’s perfect start of four straight wins, with just one goal conceded.

Hearts, whose line-up reflected the importance of their looming Europa League play-off second leg with FC Zurich, lost their first league game of the season.

Craig Gordon, Barrie McKay and Lawrence Shankland were among the key players rested as Hearts boss Robbie Neilson made seven changes from the 2-1 first-leg defeat in Switzerland.

But even accounting for the upheaval, the visitors’ defending was dire as they fell behind in the opening 15 minutes.

Kyogo was left all alone six yards out to volley past stand-in goalkeeper Ross Stewart after Daizen Maeda wriggled clear of Cochrane and whipped over a cross from the right.

Hearts regrouped and manfully prevented further damage before the break, with Jota lashing into the side-netting, Matt O’Riley knocking an acrobatic effort wide and Maeda wastefully planting a header into Stewart’s arms from close range.

Hearts were too often hurried in possession, but cut Celtic open when neat interplay in midfield allowed Gary Mackay-Steven to spring Josh Ginnelly clear, only for the winger to drag wide.

The visitors’ belief blossomed as Celtic started the second half in sloppy fashion. Ginnelly screwed another effort wide while Sibbick was unable to connect with Alan Forrest’s tempting ball across the face of goal.

Yet Hearts were unable to trouble goalkeeper Joe Hart, failing to register a single shot on target in the 90 minutes even after throwing on McKay and Shankland for the final half hour.

Celtic’s search for a second goal was thwarted by Stewart’s fine save from O’Riley, with substitute Hatate bundling the rebound a foot past. But Giakoumakis finally found a way through when he bundled in Josip Juranovic’s fizzed delivery.

Man of the match – Kyogo Furuhashi

Another goal and dynamic display from Celtic's talisman
Another goal and dynamic display from Celtic’s talisman

Solid Celtic keep on rolling – analysis

While Celtic’s flawless start continues, they made hard work of overcoming a patchwork Hearts side.

The hosts allowed slackness to seep into their play in the second half, with loose passes and careless possession giving their visitors a foothold.

Still, Celtic’s defensive solidity saw them through the rocky patch, with a third clean sheet secured while restricting the visitors to a meagre XG (expected goals) of 0.15.

At the other end, Celtic created more than enough chances to make the game safe long before Giakoumakis’ goal. Having come off the bench to net in successive games, has the Greece striker earned a start next weekend?

One look at the Hearts teamsheet showed Neilson’s priorities this week clearly lie elsewhere, with the manager taking no risks on his main men amid various bumps and bruises.

The early concession could have opened the floodgates, but Hearts dug in impressively and knocked Celtic off their stride after the break.

However, they were bereft of cutting edge and their set-piece deliveries lacked quality as the Edinburgh men’s plucky efforts came to nothing.

What did they say?

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “It was a game where there was no real flow to it. It was very stop-start, hard to get real tempo. Some of it was our own doing.

“Through that, we still maintained control and even though it was 1-0 for a long time, I never felt threatened. Their keeper pulled off two or three good games to keep them in the game.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: “I was pleased with the players that came in. We don’t have a big squad but we’ve got real quality in the depth of the squad.

“For large periods of the game we played well. Until the referee sends two of our players off, we’re still in the game and we’re in a good position.”

What’s next?

Hearts are banking on home advantage helping them turn the tie around when they face Swiss champions FC Zurich in the Europa League play-off second leg at Tynecastle on Thursday (20:00 BST).

They then host St Johnstone in the Premiership next Sunday (15:00), with Celtic away to Dundee United the same day (12:00).

Player of the match

FuruhashiKyogo Furuhashi

Celtic

  1. Squad number8Player nameFuruhashi

  2. Squad number17Player nameJota

  3. Squad number7Player nameGiakoumakis

  4. Squad number20Player nameCarter-Vickers

  5. Squad number3Player nameTaylor

  6. Squad number42Player nameMcGregor

  7. Squad number6Player nameJenz

  8. Squad number41Player nameHatate

  9. Squad number88Player nameJuranovic

  10. Squad number33Player nameO’Riley

  11. Squad number1Player nameHart

  12. Squad number38Player nameMaeda

  13. Squad number14Player nameTurnbull

  14. Squad number11Player nameAbada

  15. Squad number13Player nameMooy

Heart of Midlothian

  1. Squad number13Player nameStewart

  2. Squad number15Player nameRowles

  3. Squad number30Player nameGinnelly

  4. Squad number17Player nameForrest

  5. Squad number5Player nameHaring

  6. Squad number11Player nameMackay-Steven

  7. Squad number16Player nameHalliday

  8. Squad number19Player nameCochrane

  9. Squad number18Player nameMcKay

  10. Squad number9Player nameShankland

  11. Squad number21Player nameSibbick

  12. Squad number10Player nameBoyce

  13. Squad number27Player nameSmith

  14. Squad number20Player nameNeilson

  15. Squad number2Player nameSmith

  16. Squad number12Player nameAtkinson

Line-ups

Celtic

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Hart
  • 88Juranovic
  • 20Carter-Vickers
  • 6Jenz
  • 3Taylor
  • 33O’RileySubstituted forMooyat 72′minutes
  • 42McGregor
  • 14TurnbullSubstituted forHatateat 56′minutes
  • 38MaedaSubstituted forAbadaat 56′minutes
  • 8FuruhashiSubstituted forGiakoumakisat 72′minutes
  • 17Neves Filipe

Substitutes

  • 4Starfelt
  • 7Giakoumakis
  • 11Abada
  • 13Mooy
  • 25Bernabei
  • 31Siegrist
  • 41Hatate
  • 49Forrest
  • 56Ralston

Hearts

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 13Stewart
  • 12Atkinson
  • 21SibbickBooked at 90mins
  • 15Rowles
  • 19CochraneBooked at 89mins
  • 16HallidaySubstituted forSmithat 60′minutes
  • 5HaringSubstituted forNeilsonat 71′minutes
  • 17ForrestSubstituted forMcKayat 64′minutes
  • 10BoyceBooked at 26minsSubstituted forShanklandat 65′minutesBooked at 83mins
  • 11Mackay-StevenBooked at 43minsSubstituted forSmithat 71′minutes
  • 30Ginnelly

Substitutes

  • 2Smith
  • 7Grant
  • 9Shankland
  • 14Devlin
  • 18McKay
  • 20Neilson
  • 27Smith
  • 39Pollock
  • 40McFarlane

Referee:
Kevin Clancy

Attendance:
58,776

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