Celtic 1 Hearts 0: Furuhashi's controversial opener settles mesmerising match

Cetic won’t want to give it any headroom after they clung on for a 1-0 success over Hearts that closes the gap on cinch Premiership leaders Rangers to four points once more.

Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 during the cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Hearts. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

You feel, though, that there requires to be some part of Robbie Neilson that will wonder what could have ensued from a pulsating encounter at Celtic Park had he gone for it as really was only true for a closing, ding-dong half-hour that provided marvellous entertainment.

The transformation in his team was remarkable when the Tynecastle manager switched to the Mark II version of his team. From appearing punch drunk as they played rope-a-dope and Celtic squandered opportunities, the introduction of Liam Boyce and Gary Mackay-Steven left Celtic looking dazed and confused - even if Joe Hart wasn’t seriously tested.

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What Neilson is sure to turn over exasperatingly in his mind will be the questionable officiating that has condemned his side to slipping five points behind Celtic, having played a game more.

Tom Rogic (centre) controls the ball surrounded by Hearts players on his return to the Celtic team. (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Celtic were slick and incisive, with zip to their tempo as they shuttled the ball around that threatened to see them give their visitors a chasing. And from one such move came their decisive 33th minute separator of the sides. It was stirring stuff as Tom Rogic played Anthony Ralston down the right for the right-back to curl his foot around the ball and send over a sumptuous cross that Kyogo Furahashi bounded forward to finish first-time. But television replays seemed to show that the Japanese striker was offside when the ball left the foot of Ralston, shortly afterwards lost to injury.

Neilson’s tolerance of Bobby Madden’s performance, which seemed infuriating to both sides and their supporters, evaporated five minutes from normal time when Mackay-Steven appeared to be clipped by Rogic on the edge of the box, but elected to re-steady himself rather than go down. Though Barrie McKay - who appeared to be pelted with coins and a bottle taking a corner late on – could have made that academic had he not then seconds later tugged a low effort wide with the goal gaping. The Hearts manager’s ire over the rejected penalty claim earned him a yellow card.

By then the two teams were trading chances like nobody’s business, with James Forrest thwarted by Craig Gordon when he had only the keeper to beat in the closing minutes. By then the entire Celtic team seemed beset by the jitters, though, with the injury loss of Ralston and then Stephen Welsh leaving them with a patchwork back four in which the returning Carl Starfelt excelled. Their cause not helped by Jota also being forced off with a knock.

In terms of big performers, predictably, Gordon was also in the frame for the most valuable of the evening, pulling off several flying stops. His old team-mate Forrest had two occasions to curse him, the first arriving only in eight minutes when the Scotland keeper was a full stretch to block a curling drive from Jota. Somehow, he got himself back up to tickle the ball and prevent the Celtic winger knocking the ball in from two yards, incredibly the 30-year-old thumping the post when it seemed impossible for him not to score. It was one of the many slack-jawed inducing moments of a mesmerising contest.

Celtic's Stephen Welsh goes off with an injury during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Heart of Midlothian at Celtic Park. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

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