Five things we learned from Hearts 1 - 2 Celtic

Robbie Neilson and Brendan Rodgers oversaw an enthralling 90 minutes. Picture: PA

Robbie Neilson and Brendan Rodgers oversaw an enthralling 90 minutes. Picture: PA

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Craig Fowler looks back at an entertaining and contentious match at Tynecastle.

Hearts didn’t get the result their play merited

The hosts could scarcely have been more positive in their approach against a side many expect to walk away with this year’s title. They pressed all over the park, attacked in numbers, and as the game entered its closing stages they chased a winning goal rather than settle for a point. Unfortunately for Hearts, the gamble failed to produce the outcome they wanted as they left themselves exposed at the back and got hit by a late sucker punch on the counter. Though it’s obviously a great disappointment to those of a Gorgie persuasion, they can at least be proud of the attitude shown by their team.

The performance of Don Cowie and Conor Sammon, two players who’ve come in for supporter criticism in the recent past, should also give cause for optimism that this team is capable of building on last year’s success.

James Forrest might still have a future at Celtic

Not only did the winger open the scoring for the visitors with a well-placed shot into the bottom corner, his direct was a threat throughout and his input would have netted more than a solitary goal on another day. When Brendan Rodgers first arrived he told every player there would be a clean slate. Forrest is now taking advantage of that. His current contract expires in December, and while it was the player, and not the club, who called off negotiations over a new deal, he may reconsider Parkhead as his long-term future with Rodgers now in charge.

Tony Watt will be a great (though mildly frustrating) addition

Hearts will be encouraged by the display of their summer signing. Making his debut, Watt did a grand job of finding gaps in the Celtic defence, whether by dropping deep to exploit the space between defence and midfield, or by drifting out to the right to try and exploit the area left bare by Kieran Tierney’s forays forward. On the ball he looked confident and always willing to commit opponents and he should be a major plus for the Hearts attack going forward. What Robbie Neilson will look to work on is a tendency for Watt to get tunnel vision in advanced areas, and a slight petulant side that showed up when he tussled with Scott Brown for possession near the Celtic corner flag. He’ll also hope to help the Charlton Athletic loanee become clinical in front of goal. Though he’s scored goals at each of his previous seven clubs, Watt’s never been a 20-goal a season type of forward, as evidenced by his perplexing miss at 0-1.

Scott Brown is coming back to form

Having put in a great showing in the win over Astana, Scott Brown posted back-to-back strong performances with another against Hearts. There are few places in the world where Brown likes playing, and winning, more than in front of a packed Tynecastle baying for his blood, so this might be the right sort of encounter in which he can thrive, though he did struggle mightily in the last fixture between the sides back in late April. The Celtic captain did not enjoy a great start the current season either, drawing a lot of criticism after the Lincoln Red Imps defeat. It left many to question whether the problem behind his poor form last season was injury or him coming to the end of his career. But since Rodgers decided to split up the Brown and Nir Bitton partnership and use the former exclusively as a defensive minded player, either in a 4-1-3-2 or a 3-5-2, the captain has began to look like getting back to his best.

Hearts’ rearguard have problems keeping opponents in front of them

While the hosts deserved at least a draw, they still had to ride their luck at times (especially in the first half) as Celtic got in behind far too easily on multiple occasions. Two players who were particularly guilty of this were Faycal Rherras and Igor Rossi. Rherras looks good going forward and though doesn’t seem to share the same eccentricities as his predecessor Juwon Oshaniwa, he can often get caught ball watching and fails to track the opposing winger. While Rossi, who is usually as reliable a defender as there is at Hearts, let a couple of routine long balls bounce over his head. In fairness, perhaps the unit was missing its captain and leader, Alim Ozturk.

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