Celtic 4-1 Hearts: Parkhead side cruise against managerless Jambos

Hearts teenager Lewis Moore chases James Forrest of Celtic
Hearts teenager Lewis Moore chases James Forrest of Celtic
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Celtic handed Hearts a heavy opening-day defeat in the Ladbrokes Premiership as Leigh Griffiths' double plus goals from Scott Sinclair and Callum McGregor earned the champions a winning start.


Under the tutelage of interim head coach Jon Daly after Ian Cathro's sacking, the Tynecastle side couldn't match the pace and strength of their hosts in Glasgow. They did look more organised overall and scored late on through substitute Esmael Goncalves, but by then Celtic's movement and cutting edge in the final third had made the difference.

A midweek trip to Norway on Champions League qualifying duty didn't seem to affect Celtic too much given the tempo of their play throughout the match. Hearts coped well in the first half and were still in the game only 1-0 down at half-time. However, their opponents upped the pace in the second half and reaped the rewards with a convincing final scoreline.

Celtic unfurled the Ladbrokes Premiership title flag before kick-off after last season's unbeaten campaign. Their previous domestic defeat was May 2016, underlining the daunting task facing Hearts in Glasgow. The Edinburgh club hadn't won a league match at Parkhead in ten years.

Brendan Rodgers restored Griffiths to his starting line-up, while Daly selected two 19-year-olds in Jamie Brandon and Lewis Moore. The latter was making only his second start in maroon. Celtic dominated the ball in the opening stages but took 22 minutes to fashion a shot on target.

Predictably, it was Griffiths who stung the palms of Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton before Christophe Berra cleared the rebound for corner. Griffiths then wasted a good chance by shooting wide after referee Kevin Clancy allowed a crunching challenge by the Celtic captain Scott Brown to go unpunished. Brown was booked moments later for another foul.

Griffiths wasn't likely to spurn his next opportunity. On 29 minutes, he duly opened the scoring to put his team 1-0 ahead. Jozo Simunovic's raking long ball found the Scotland striker on the run in behind the visiting defence. He survived Hamilton's challenge and that of the sliding Rafal Grzelak before tucking the ball into the unguarded net.

A penalty claim for Grzelak's tug on James Forrest's shirt was ignored by the referee near the end of the first period. One of Hearts' biggest concerns during the interval would have been to ensure striker Kyle Lafferty remained on the field after several run-ins with Clancy, one of which earned him a booking.

Celtic killed the game as a contest through Sinclair five minutes after the restart. Griffiths' outswinging corner wasn't dealt with by Aaron Hughes and the ball bounced off the defender into Sinclair's path for a close-range tap-in. He had been kept relatively quiet by Brandon at right-back for Hearts up until that point but the goal saw him released from his shackles.

The Tynecastle fans then broke into a chant of "Paulo Sergio, Sergio" in support of their former manager, who has applied for the head coach's role and is eager to return to Gorgie.

Griffiths claimed his second goal in the 64th minute, sprinting forward to nod home McGregor's cross on the run from just a few yards out. Daly made the sensible decision to substitute Lafferty for his own sake 19 minutes from the end before McGregor lashed Celtic's fourth goal high beyond Hamilton from outside the penalty area.

Substitute Goncalves rattled in Hearts' consolation goal in the closing stages. He sprinted on to Arnaud Djoum's lofted ball and evaded Simunovic's challenge before beating the Celtic keeper Craig Gordon at his near post.

It wasn't enough to change the outcome, of course, but it at least provided the away support with something to cheer on an otherwise difficult afternoon.

Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Biton, Simunovic, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Griffiths.
Subs
67: Hayes for Griffiths
75: Rogic for McGregor
87: Armstrong for Ntcham
Unused subs: De Vries, Ajer, Ralston, Kouassi.
Hearts (4-1-4-1): Hamilton; Brandon, Hughes, Berra, Grzelak; Buaben; M Smith, Cowie, Djoum, Moore; Lafferty.
Subs
62: Randall for Buaben
69: Goncalves for Grzelak
71: Sammon for Lafferty
Unused subs: Noring, Souttar, Nowak, Martin.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.