Man of the match
The premature dismissal of Carl Starfelt at Celtic is starting to look decidedly silly. It could be no other way when the 26-year-old proved such an unyielding linchpin against the Tynecastle men following five weeks out with a hamstring problem. Hasty appraisals are now being demanded of the Swede, whose teething issues following his £4.6m summer move from Rubin Kazan seem firmly behind him. As Celtic’s back four - already deprived Cameron Carter-Vickers for personal reasons - had to be constantly remoulded owing to injury losses, the centre-back stayed strong and on top of the ramped-up challenge by the visitors late on - one body-contortion to produce a superb defensive header in the closing stages critical.
It would be easy to home in on Kyogo Furuhashi’s winning goal when such furore was caused for Hearts manager Robbie Neilson and his club through the player appearing to have struck from an offside position. Yet, the 33rd minute strike would not have proved so pivotal to the game’s aftermath had James Forrest not contrived to smack the post from a mere two yards only eight minutes in with Craig Gordon on the ground after pushing a Jota driving into the Celtic winger’s path. The Hearts keeper may have got a touch to slightly alter the bounce of the ball, but there were no excuses for an outrageous miss. Had the home side capitalised at that point on their whirlwind start, they could well have blown away an opponent then struggling to contain them.
Depressingly, the Green Brigade must be placed in the dock once more. The missile throwing from their area on two occasions Barrie McKay lined up to take corners in front of them in the second half was shameful. It wasn’t just one plastic bottle, which hit the attacker in the back. All manner of coins, and a number of other objects, could be seen landing on the turf near him.
The club must take their ultras in hand, and for words as well as deeds. Chants of “Orange bastards” were directed towards the Hearts support from the section. It demands repeating for the hard of thinking among the Celtic support: this is sectarian for precisely the same reasons as the term “Fenian bastards” - over which they are so condemnatory if heard elsewhere in Scottish football. In the eyes of the law, the former is considered shorthand for Protestant as the latter is adjudged shorthand for Catholic. Both have been punished in court on the basis of religiously aggravated breach of the peace legislation. Such chants weren’t heard at Celtic Park across the first decade of the millennium. Former owner Fergus McCann had then succeeded in addressing, as he put it, the club’s “Catholic bigots”. Such a faction seem now to believe they can act with impunity. Celtic have a sectarian problem, whatever their apologists might claim.
It was a pile on for referee Bobby Madden. From the two supports. It is unusual to hear rivals fans both calling out an official for a perceived indulgence in, eh, self love during the same 90 minutes. But Madden’s propensity for letting meaty challenges go, only to every so often then elect to pull one up, can infuriate supporters. An apoplectic Neilson claimed that the referee and his assistant Alan Mulvanny had cost his side a point through their calls. The Hearts manager was on solid ground in questioning Madden’s perplexing decision to halt play with his team in attack when winger Jota pulled up with a hamstring.
Yet, for all that it dominated the aftermath, ultimately there was more nuance over to his principal beef, which centred on Mulvanny not flagging Furuhashi offside when he slammed the ball in the net just after the half hour. It looked like the striker may have been a half-toe offside, but the magnitude of the error was over-cooked as the encounter was digested. Both in Sky and BBC’s coverage - the Celtic-baiting Kris Boyd apart - there was a general acceptance that the call was so borderline, it was hardly a grievous miss from Mulvanny. An element of revisionism seems certain to suggest otherwise, though.
Gave us a giggle
It is rare for Ange Postecoglou to become animated over any refereeing decisions on the touchline. The Celtic manager’s mindset is to strip the emotion from developments not under his control. It was a shock then, and more than a little amusing, to see him going ape, at the fourth official when a mere throw-in was awarded to Hearts he felt should have gone the way of his team.