Celtic hold on to beat Hearts in tale of two offside goals and a missed penalty

Ange Posetcoglou and his players will have been made aware of Hearts boss Robbe Neilson’s declaration of intent as he set his Gorgie side the target of chasing down second placed Celtic.

But the visitors produced a devastating first-half display that proved too good for their hosts to live with.

Almost equidistant from the Parkhead side and the teams trying to close in on third place, the Hearts bss had challenged his men to look up the way and three points in this one would have helped that cause but there is a relentlessness to the way the two big Glasgow clubs manage to quash those kind of aspirations before they gain traction.

The thing about this one was that Hearts really believed they could take the game to the visitors, the way they had when they had locked horns in the same stadium back in July and come away with the victory.

Celtic's Reo Hatate wheels away to celebrate after scoring the opener against Hearts. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

They showed that desire in the opening few minutes of this match and then in the final half an hour but in between, Celtic slayed them.

In command and, piling on the pressure, they broke through with two goals, in the 27th and 35th minute, giving themselves a lead that proved unassailable regardless how hard the capital side came at them in the second half.

In the end, it was a tale of two offside goals, a missed penalty and a frantic, fast-flowing game where momentum see-sawed.

Hearts had their chances, though, reducing the deficit in the 62nd minute and then earning a penalty just nine minutes later. But, while Liam Boyce was clinical with the former and sent Joe Hart the wrong way when he stepped up looking to dispatch the latter he was foiled by the post.

Hearts' Liam Boyce can't believe he missed a penalty in the 2-1 defeat to Celtic. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

It allowed the title challengers to claim the victory and instead of Hearts narrowing the gap, Celtic extended their lead in second place to 12 points.

In the opening minute, Hearts forward Boyce laid on an opportunity for Barrie McKay to have a dig. But he couldn’t find the net.

A busy and full-on start to the contest, there was an emotional pause in the 13th minute as the fans, players and staff all joined in applause as a mark of respect for 13-year-old Hearts Devin Gordon, who passed away recently.

But it was the only real respite in a game where both teams competed.

Having started slowly, Celtic shifted up through the gears, though, with their mobility, energy and attacking prowess pinning Hearts in. The siege was always likely to reap dividends, despite Hearts defensive defiance.

Players like Jota and Reo Hatate were difficult to contain, while Matt O’Riley was another asset.

The opener came in the 27th minute and it was a stunning strike from Hatate which left Scotland’s number 1 Craig Gordon helpless.

Soon after there was a second goal and, while it was later shown to be offside, there was a delightful little flick from Giorgos Giakoumakis to beat Gordon and John Souttar at the near post.

Hearts got one back in the 62nd minute as Celtic’s superiority waned and Hearts threw everything at them. Boyce was the man on the end of McKay’s cross but the striker was less clinical in the 71st minute, as his spot-kick came back off the post.

Don't miss out on a 30 per cent discount on an annual sports subscription. We have a special offer throughout January where you can get a reduced package. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions/sports for more details


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.