CELTIC 3 HEARTS 3 (Celtic win 4-3 on penalties)
Celtic flitted with the sort of disaster that has stalked them all season before escaping with a penalty shoot-out Scottish Cup triumph that completed an unprecedented quadruple treble. A showpiece of crackers undulations - Celtic were 2-0 up at half-time and 3-2 up in extra-time - the decider ultimately became a redemption tale for young Celtic keeper Conor Hazard.
He saved penalties from Stephen Kingsley and Craig Wighton in a shoot-out that had witnessed Hearts claim an advantage courtesy of Craig Gordon thwarting Ryan Christie at Celtic’s third penalty. Hazard accounted for Hearts’ third and fourth spot-kick and that allowed Kristoffer Ajer to slam in the winner and spark outpourings of relief more than joy, as Celtic became the first club to win the trophy on four successive occasions and Neil Lennon also became the first man to win a treble as both a manager and player.
Hazard had several hapless moments across the afternoon, but no more so than when, with Celtic 3-2 up thanks to substitute Leigh Griffiths showing his predatory instincts, the keeper failed to claim a corner in the 110th minute to allow Josh Ginnelly to drive in their second equaliser. Celtic appeared in total control after establishing a two-goal lead within a half hour and the question then seemed only to surround their eventual margin of victory.
Christie exquisitely controlled a Hearts clearing header from the left of the penalty area and beautifully curled the ball in at the right hand corner of Craig Gordon’s net in for a 19th minute opener. Then Christophe Berra’s flapping arm made contact with a David Turnbull corner in the box nine minutes later, and Odsonne Edouard converted with the resultant spot-kick courtesy of an audacious chip – which left Gordon raging over Frenchman’s shuffle.
Celtic’s brittleness reared up once more, though. Hearts pulled a goal back within 10 minutes on the restart. Aidy White escaped the clutches of Ajer down the left to allow Andy Halliday to loft over a cross missed by Shane Duffy before Liam Boyce angled a header back across Hazard. With the young keeper vulnerable following a couple of errors in the first period Hearts were able to exploit another corner for their 67th minute equaliser, a Kingsley header crossing the line before Scott Brown hooked it away. For the first time in a cup final, goalline technology allowed referee John Beaton to make the right call.
Celtic’s confidence drained and Hearts’ Josh Ginnelly passed up two glaring openings in the closing minutes to foce the final into extra-time. Yet, they seemed to escape their own fallibilities when Griffiths pounced to turn in from six yards after a Gordon block. The fireworks set off in celebration might have seemed out of keeping considering how close Celtic came to self-immolation.
Celtic: Hazard; Ajer, Jullien, Duffy (Johnston 91), Taylor (Laxalt 83); Brown (Soro 106), McGregor; Christie, Turnbull (Rogic 68), Elyounoussi (Frimpong 83); Edouard (Griffiths 97). Subs: Barkas, Bitton, Klimala, Soro.
Heart of Midlothian: Gordon; Halkett, Berra, Kingsley; Smith, Halliday (Haring 91), Irving (Frear 119), White (Lee 81); Walker (Ginnelly 47); Naismith; Boyce (Wighton 70). Subs: Stewart, Haring, Roberts, Popescu, Henderson.