I always love a trip to Parkhead , but this game couldn't come quick enough for me, as I had memories of the hammer throwing escapades of Craig Levein's men, when I visited Tynecastle early on in the season. How his team kept 11 men on the park that day is beyond me, as at least 2 should have been red carded for fouls that bordered on the criminal. It was sufficient for Hearts to claim victory on the day, but revenge for that performance was what I sought, and our recent form, including a 3 nil thrashing of the Jambos in the cup semi last Sunday, left me gripped with anticipation for the game.
GordonA strong line up took the plaudits from a near sell out crowd at Parkhead on a dismal day that was mild but wet. It didn't take long in the poor conditions for Celtic to threaten. 2 minutes in saw Edouard lay a pass to Christie who unleashed a dangerous shot. Celtic again were looking threatening down the left hand side with lots of great play from Tierney, Rogic, Forrest and Sinclair combining beautifully at times. Christie once again came close as a ball broke to him from around 6 yards but his shot passed across the goal without making the breakthrough.
Lustig Boyata Benkovic Tierney
Forrest Rogic Christie Sinclair
In a repeat of almost every game we have played this year, Hearts played to try and contain the champions. Some neat footwork from Edouard to take the ball from left to right, ended with him crashing a shot off the underside of the bar from 20 yards and past the flailing arm of Zlamal in the Hearts goal.
Zlamal was called into action a few minutes later when Rogic played in Tierney who fired a shot that the keeper got a strong hand to. Celtic laid siege and came close again when space seemed to open up for James Forrest who took aim from 25 yards to no avail. Celtic pressed forward relentlessly and had two quick fire corners awarded in a row. The second was to be the jambos downfall as when McGregor flighted a ball in Benkovic lost his marker and bulleted a header in from 6 yards. The big Croat has been a stalwart at the back and had come so close on many occasions of getting a goal, that it seemed only a matter of time before it came. He really enjoyed the experience and was clearly delighted to open his account for the hoops.
On the stroke of halftime Christie had an effort after some typically tantalising footwork from Rogic.
Half time - Celtic 3 Hearts 0The second half started with a whimper and Hearts even had a corner. For some reason the defence seemed to switch off for a bit, or maybe Hearts pressed a little better, but it looked like a defensive error might lead to something for the visitors as slackness crept in at the back. It even looked as if Gordon was going to be caught out by a slack pass back. The Hearts striker came rushing towards him, and as the home support held its collective breath in apprehension, the big keeper pulled a deft chip and laid the ball beautifully into the midfield and into the path of the ever lively Callum McGregor.
The little midfielder has been a revelation in the role in front of the defence and never more so than when he took that ball from Gordon. He turned quickly and ran at the Hearts midfield. He sliced through their defences like a hot knife through butter with a magnificent run that was only thwarted by a great save from Zlamal. This action seemed to spur the Hoops out of their post break stupor and the started putting on the style.
Celtic attacked down the left to no avail, but quickly switched play out to the right to a waiting Edouard on the righ touch line. The big Frenchman played a neat ball into Forrest in the box, expecting a one - two, but the little winger turned inside and sept the ball into the far corner of the net for goal number four.
Hearts threatened briefly with a shot off the post but then reverted to their usual thuggery. Tierney was up ended with a tackle from behind, Benkovic was caught extremely late with a cruncher at the corner flag after releasing a pass upfield and then substitute Lewis Morgan was all but assaulted with a vicious attack as he cleared the halfway line with some neat footwork. How Haring never saw red for that one was a definite surprise to me.
The scoring wasn't over there though. Much to hearts chagrin, Forrest skipped from left to right through their penalty box, and just as it seemed that he would pull the trigger, substitute Wighton tripped the little on-form wizard to give a penalty.
Up stepped Christie with nerves of steel to cap off another fine performance by calmly slotting the ball into the corner of the net narrowly clipping the post. An unstoppable penalty, even had the keeper guessed the right way to dive.
The final whistle came along with what I imagine must be a dawning sense of realisation from the current league leaders, that their early season form is not going to keep them at the summit for long. This is a Celtic team firing on all cylinders, scoring goal freely and conceding very little at the back.On current form there isn't a side who can come close to us, and I get the distinct impression that everyone in Scotland has become aware of that fact.
Great game, great performance and a great result. Bring on the Leipzig!!!