CELTIC 5-0 HEARTS
12th February 2020
Celtic moved closer to a ninth title in a row last night after a commanding 5-0 win over Hearts at Celtic Park sent the Hoops 10 points clear at the summit of the Scottish Premiership.
Olivier Ntcham opened the scoring in the first half with a volleyed finish before four goals after the break secured a comfortable victory against a Hearts side that had proved difficult to break down in the early stages of the match
Hearts set out to make things difficult for Neil Lennon’s men as manager Daniel Stendel instructed the Edinburgh side to adopt a high press from the off. It was a bold move from the German and despite Hearts appearing to keep Celtic at bay in the early stages of the game, the hoops midfield were still managing to break through Hearts’ high defensive line with relative ease on the counter-attack with a few early breaks only faltering with a final pass or a wayward shot.
There were still some openings for the hoops at the start of the game however and Leigh Griffiths fired over the bar early on from outside the box before James Forrest almost opened the scoring after picking up a loose pass inside the Hearts box and firing a shot straight at Hearts goalkeeper, Pereira.
The Celts were starting to find openings though as Hearts struggled to deal with their pace on the break and after a few half chances for the Edinburgh side, Celtic finally took the lead after 30 minutes when Olivier Ntcham volleyed in a rebound after an Odsonne Edouard shot, finishing off a slick counter attack that was started by Ntcham in his own half moments earlier.
In fact, Celtic could have doubled their lead before half time as another fast break saw Edouard lose his man with a terrific spin on the ball before releasing Griffiths in the box. However, the Scottish striker could only find the side netting with a chance he would have normally expected to finish with ease.
It was a promising end to a first-half where Celtic had initially struggled to deal with the unusual approach by Hearts and the hoops came out at the start of the second period with even more energy to put Hearts to the sword.
Christopher Jullien opened the scoring only 60 seconds after the restart after rising high in the box to head home a Leigh Griffiths corner for his seventh goal of the season and continued to be involved in the chances with another header from the French defender teeing up Jozo Simunovic for a volley which cannoned off the post before bouncing back to Scott Brown who headed against the woodwork himself.
The champions continued to move the ball with pace and were now opening up the Hearts defence at will on the counter-attack as a third goal arrived from the boot of Callum McGregor after a great exchange of passes with Greg Taylor set him free in the box.
It was a case of how many goals now for Celtic and another chance followed soon after as the ball fell to James Forrest on the edge of the box from a corner and the winger forced a fantastic save from Joel Pereira after setting himself up for a half-volleyed attempt.
The introduction of Ryan Christie brought further life into the Celtic attack and it would not be long before the Scotland midfielder would get on the scoresheet himself. Another counter-attack, this time started by Scott Brown, set Greg Taylor free once more and this time the defender’s cross from the left found its way to Christie whose shot floated into the net following a wicked deflection against Hearts defender, Craig Halkett.
The Celts were now 4-0 up and cruising and Edouard went close from a free-kick as news began to filter through to the stadium that the gap at the top of the league was likely to be widening as a Kilmarnock goal at Rugby Park was confirmed.
Jozo Simunovic put the icing on the cake back at Parkhead as he scored a second goal of the night from a corner after thumping home Ryan Christie’s delivery to extend the scoreline.
It was a terrific evening’s work for the hoops and even a terrible challenge from Marcel Langer on Scott Brown in the closing stages couldn’t dampen the mood in the stadium as the German saw red following an act of frustration that summed up Hearts’ inability to get close to Celtic.
In fact, by the time the final whistle was blown at the end of the game, the Celtic support were in full voice as further news from Rugby Park confirmed that Kilmarnock had found a second goal to help extend the Champions’ lead at the top of the table to 10 points after a comfortable victory at Paradise.
MAN OF THE MATCH
The French midfielder has been in a rich vein of form since his return from the winter break and put in another terrific performance in the middle of the park.
His quick forward passing was a constant threat all game, no more so than for the opening goal as he started and finished his own counter-attack to get the Celts off and running.
Celtic travel to Pittodrie on Sunday hoping to extend their fantastic 8 game winning run against an Aberdeen side that has been struggling for form since returning from the winter break.
The two sides have already met twice this season with Celtic running out winners on both occasions including a thumping 4-0 away win in October.
However, Derek McInnes’ side did manage to pick up their first three points of the new year with a comfortable 3-1 away win to Hamilton on Tuesday so an upturn in form may be around the corner.
49 Forrest (Elyounoussi 72')
21 Ntcham (Rogic 78')
9 Griffiths (Christie 64')
Goals: Ntcham 30, Jullien 46, McGregor 52, Christie 67, Simunovic 80.
23 Castro Pereira
8 Clare (Langer 45')
2 Smith (Moore 70')
21 McDonald (Washington 29')
Sent Off: Langer
Booked: Halkett, Walker.