A RUTHLESS Celtic performance ended Hearts’ Scottish Cup campaign at the first hurdle as the Glasgow club cruised into the fifth round at Tynecastle.
Two goals from Virgil van Dijk, a John Guidetti penalty and an Anthony Stokes strike brought a comfortable win after Hearts captain Morgaro Gomis was sent off in the opening minutes.
The hosts had to play with ten men for 82 minutes after Gomis’ dismissal for a reckless tackle on the Celtic captain Scott Brown. The numerical disadvantage made an already difficult task impossible and Celtic capitalised to negotiate the tie with little fuss.
Gomis could have no complaints over his ordering off. With two feet off the ground, he gave referee Willie Collum little option but to issue a straight red card. Celtic’s second goal came via Guidetti’s penalty after Brad McKay was ajudged to have fouled the Swede inside the penalty box. However, television replays showed no contact between the players.
The third and fourth goals merely affirmed the superiority of Ronny Deila’s men. They won 7-0 at this venue in the same competition 12 months ago and, although this was a Premiership v Championship contest, chances of a repeat were slim.
Craig Gordon, playing his first match at Tynecastle since May 12, 2007, saved the game’s first shot from Hearts striker James Keatings after only two minutes. However, the afternoon erupted in controversy on eight minutes when Gomis was dismissed.
The diminutive Senegalese lunged into a tackle on Brown with both feet off the ground and studs showing. He won the ball but the reckless nature of the challenge did not impress Collum. He pulled Gomis across and waved a red card in his face for serious foul play.
Hearts felt aggrieved at being reduced to ten men and for a while their fans screamed for every Celtic tackle to be punished. The visitors’ offences were mainly of the cynical rather than the dangerous variety, though. On 29 minutes, they made their extra man advantage count with the opening goal.
A corner kick was glanced on and found Stokes around 12 yards from goal at an angle. He drilled the ball across the face of the box and Van Dijk calmly, and with admirable technique, side-footed it through a collection of bodies and low into Neil Alexander’s net.
Alexander stopped efforts from Nir Biton and Stokes with Hearts firmly on the back foot. Van Dijk somehow contrived to miss an open goal from two yards after a cross ball evaded everyone else inside the penalty area. The Dutchman scooped a poor finish over the crossbar and the chance of a 2-0 interval advantage went with it.
Celtic did get their second goal shortly after the restart. Brad McKay was judged to have fouled Guidetti inside the box and Collum pointed to the penalty spot. Replays showed no contact and the decision incensed McKay, who was booked alongside Stefan Johansen after an altercation involving several players. At the end of it, Guidetti fired the penalty into the net to Alexander’s right.
Celtic moved 3-0 ahead and out of sight within minutes. Stokes collected Brown’s pass and planted a diagonal drive low past Alexander with his left foot from 20 yards. Van Dijk then claimed his second with a powerful header from Johansen’s corner which Alexander’s palm could not stop. Hearts by now were merely trying to keep the scoreline respectable.
Substitute Kris Commons was denied a goal for offside after Alexander blocked Aleksandar Tonev’s shot. Celtic spent the majority of the second period camped in Hearts territory and finished with a convincing win to take them into the next round.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, McKay, Eckersley; Pallardo, Gomis; King, Holt, Walker; Keatings. Subs 58: Buaben for Holt; 69: Buchanan for Walker; 77: Robinson for Keatings. Unused subs: Hamilton, McGhee, McKirdy, Flanagan.
Celtic (4-4-2): Gordon; Matthews, Ambrose, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Biton; Forrest, Johansen, Stokes; Guidetti. Subs: 57: Tonev for Forrest; 67: Griffiths for Stokes; 67: Commons for Johansen. Unused subs: Zaluska, Kayal, O’Connell, McGregor.
Referee: Willie Collum.