VICTOR WANYAMA’S first Celtic goal consigned a resilient Hearts side to defeat in Glasgow as Eggert Jonsson saw his late penalty saved by Fraser Forster.
The spirit of the visitors was admirable at the end of another week without wages at Tynecastle but they were left to rue the penalty miss two minutes from full-time.
For 72 minutes Hearts defied the hosts and might even have prised a goal of their own before Wanyama produced a fine swerving 20-yard strike. Wanyama was then penalised for handball in his own box two minutes from time but Forster dived to his left to parry Jonsson’s attempt from the spot and compound the recent misery for Hearts.
The wages saga continues for the Tynecastle squad although their approach offered genuine encouragement on a cold afternoon in Glasgow’s east end. Celtic enjoyed the majority of possession and laboured in front of goal until Wanyama broke the deadlock. Thereafter Hearts pressed forward and the penalty was their reward but, as Forster celebrated his save, Jonsson was a picture of desolation.
There were scenes of disorder at full-time as Scott Brown and Jamie Hamill squared up, Marius Zaliukas also attempted to get involved as tempers spilled over. Brown had plenty to say to Hearts players, Hamill in particular, during the second half and more at full-time. He also received an earful from a few of the visitors when the penalty was awarded and at full-time there was plenty pushing and shoving, although nothing too serious.
The tone of the first half was set from kick-off with Celtic pouring forward at every opportunity. Their probing brought a series of corners but nothing to seriously trouble the visiting defence, where Adrian Mrowiec was deputising for the injured Andy Webster at centre-back. Rudi Skacel was dropped to the substitutes’ bench following last weekend’s defeat by St Johnstone, whilst John Sutton was omitted from the Hearts squad altogether.
Indeed, the only moment of concern for Marian Kello during the early exchanges was a passback from his own captain, Zaliukas. The Lithuanian failed to look before flicking the ball back to the Slovakian on 28 minutes. Had he done so, he would have seen Kello sprinting out to clear the ball. Thankfully, the goalkeeper reacted in time to dispense with the heavy backpass.
Moments later Zaliukas completely missed James Forrest’s cross, however Gary Hooper’s turn and shot rolled narrowly wide of target from an acute angle. Hearts were conceding possession frequently in their own half of the field but reached the interval without conceding. They were grateful to Kello for parrying Anthony Stokes’ attempt from distance, however they were not without opportunities of their own.
There was a 32nd-minute drive by Scott Robinson - enjoying a rare start in midfield - which rose over the Celtic crossbar. Then David Templeton collected a wayward pass by Wanyama and a two-versus-two situation developed involving him and Ryan Stevenson. The winger sprinted forward in possession then chose the wrong option by passing instead of shooting on the 18-yard line and the chance was gone.
Celtic introduced club captain Scott Brown for the second period in an effort to force a breakthrough. The longer the game remained goalless, the more unrest took hold within the Parkhead stands and the more Hearts grew in confidence. Kello comfortably held two Beram Kayal efforts before Stokes headed against the crossbar from Forrest’s delivery on 61 minutes.
Hearts’ resistance was eventually broken in the 72nd minute of play. They cleared a free-kick to the edge of their own penalty area where Celtic battled to retrieve the ball. Calm, one-touch passes from Brown and Charlie Mulgrew teed up Wanyama for a swerving shot which left Kello helpess as it landed in the goalkeeper’s top left corner.
Andy Driver, Stephen Elliott and David Obua were introduced in a triple substitution 12 minutes from the end, and Hearts’ first shot on target arrived soon through Mehdi Taouil. Then came the penalty which would have rescued a vital point in the dying minutes of the game.
Wanyama was penalised for handball following a corner and Jonsson was entrusted with the task from 12 yards following Hamill’s recent penalty miss. The Icelander could only watch in despair as Forster threw himself to his left and saved the day for Celtic.
Celtic (4-4-2): Forster; Cha, Loovens (Brown 46), Majstorovic, Mulgrew; Forrest, Kayal (Ki 68), Wanyama, Samaras; Hooper, Stokes (Bangura 90). Subs not used: Zaluska, M Wilson, McGeouch, Twadzik.
Hearts (4-5-1): Kello; Hamill, Mrowiec, Zaliukas, McGowan; Taouil, Robinson (S Elliott 78), Jonsson, Black (Obua 78), Templeton (Driver 78); Stevenson. Subs not used: MacDonald, Novikovas, Skacel, Mullen.
Referee: Calum Murray.