Hearts endured a chastening afternoon as Celtic secured their sixth Premiership title in succession with an emphatic victory at Tynecastle.
Ian Cathro’s side made a bright start but the visitors found their rhythm midway through the first half and ultimately cruised to victory courtesy of a Scott Sinclair hat-trick and goals from Stuart Armstrong and Patrick Roberts.
The result leaves Hearts two points behind St Johnstone in the battle for fourth place ahead of Wednesday’s meeting between the teams in Perth.
Cathro made two changes to the side that lost 2-0 against Aberdeen 15 days earlier as Arnaud Djoum missed out through injury and Sam Nicholson dropped to the bench. Captain Perry Kitchen returned to the starting XI for the first time since being substituted at half-time in the Scottish Cup defeat away to Hibs in February, while Bjorn Johnsen was given his first start for a month. Jack Hamilton, Don Cowie and Jamie Walker were the only Hearts starters who were also part of the side that ran Celtic close on their last visit to Tynecastle on the opening day of the season.
Celtic had the ball in the net after two minutes but the linesman’s flag was already up by the time Roberts stroked a pass from Sinclair beyond Jack Hamilton. Hearts’ first opening of the match came in the sixth minute when the ball broke to Jamie Walker 25 yards out but the midfielder rolled his shot harmlessly wide of Craig Gordon’s right-hand post.
The hosts went closer three minutes later when Esmael Goncalves cut in from the left and drilled in a low shot from the edge of the box which Gordon blocked
Hearts’ supporters, many of whom had been dreading the prospect of their off-form team facing Brendan Rodgers’ rampant side, were given plenty reason for encouragement in the early stages. Goncalves was put clean through on Gordon by an angled pass from Walker in the 16th minute, but the former Tynecastle goalkeeper made an excellent save to deny the Portuguese forward.
The home side were given a reminder of Celtic’s threat a minute later when Callum McGregor knocked a close-range volley wide after being picked out unmarked in the centre by a cross from Sinclair. Hearts threatened again when Krystian Nowak had a header from a Cowie cross pushed behind by Gordon.
However, their promising opening quarter ultimately counted for little as they fell behind to an excellent Celtic goal in 24 minutes. Tierney fed Sinclair on the left, just inside the box and the former Manchester City and Swansea City attacker played a rapid one-two with Roberts before smashing an emphatic shot high beyond Hamilton.
Three minutes later, the visitors doubled their lead after some more sublime play between Roberts and Sinclair. Roberts produced a magnificent piece of skill to create space for himself and slipped the ball through for Sinclair, who rasped the ball past the exposed Hamilton from just inside the box.
Celtic thought they had extended their lead in the 51st minute when Forrest’s cross was turned into his own net by Tasos Avlonitis, but the Hearts defender was stretching to stop the ball reaching the offside Sinclair at the far post.
Any grievance the visitors may have felt at the disallowed goal was banished four minutes later when Armstrong drove in a powerful low strike from just outside the box. Celtic struck again in the 61st minute as Roberts curled a sensational left-footed shot from the angle of the box high beyond Hamilton and in at the far post.
Sinclair sealed his hat-trick with seven minutes left when he slammed in a penalty after being fouled by Nowak. The Celtic players then rubbed their beleaguered hosts’ noses in it by performing a celebratory huddle in front of Hamilton before the match restarted.
Hearts: Hamilton, Struna, Avlonitis, Nowak, Sowah, Kitchen, Tziolis (Buaben 65), Cowie, Walker (Martin 65), Goncalves (Beith 70), Johnsen. Subs not used: Noring, Nicholson, Smith, Currie.
Booked: Walker, Goncalves, Nowak.
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig (Gamboa 79), Simunovic, Boyata (Toure 87), Tierney, McGregor, Brown, Armstrong, Sinclair, Roberts (Mackay-Steven 79), Forrest.
Subs not used: Bailly, Bitton, Aitchison, Kouassi.
Booked: McGregor, Forrest, Boyata.
Referee: Kevin Clancy