Callum McGregor admitted Celtic’s 4-0 defeat the last time they visited Tynecastle turned yesterday’s match into a revenge mission.
“It was a good afternoon for us,” the midfielder said after the 3-1 victory. “We knew it was going to be difficult here, especially after the last result. It was in the back of the players’ minds and we wanted to put it right.”
December’s shock reverse brought to an end the unbeaten run of Celtic’s Invincibles and remains this campaign’s only serious blemish for the new seven-in-a-row champions.
“We had a disappointing result here before which gave us that extra motivation to make sure it didn’t happen again,” added McGregor. “Full credit to the boys. We went out and put in a much better performance and secured a much better result.
“We know what Hearts are about. They’re a big and physical team and they’re very direct so you’ve got to stand up to that challenge to secure the victory and we did that.”
McGregor was pressed into service as a left-back but while he was quite pleased with his performance he doesn’t think Kieran Tierney – watching among the Celtic fans in the away end – should worry about his position being under threat.
“It was okay stepping in for him. I’ve done it a few times now but usually when we’re at home and you have a lot more possession. Today was a different test but I was happy to take it on.”
McGregor also addressed the main bone of contention post-match – the length of the Tynecastle grass. “It was very thick, very long and very dry,” he said. “Hearts have tried to keep it long to stifle us and the way we try and play.” He recounted one incident when a throw-in got swallowed up in the turf, Don Cowie nicking the ball. “You can moan about things like that but you’ve still got to go out and win the game and that’s what we did.”
Hearts midfielder Joaquim Adao thought his team competed well in the first half but then gifted Celtic the decisive goals. Booked early on, the Angolan was removed from the fray by Craig Levein in case of a second caution causing him to miss Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby. He did not share his manager’s fear, and vowed he wouldn’t be changing his style for the visit of Hibernian. “I will play the same way – in fact even more like that because it’s a derby,” Adao said.