Hearts 2, Celtic 2: Sow’s stunner earns point

Osman Sow strikes late with this free-kick to earn Hearts a point. Pic: SNS
Osman Sow strikes late with this free-kick to earn Hearts a point. Pic: SNS
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Osman Sow’s raking 25-yard strike earned Hearts a late draw with Celtic on a dramatic afternoon at Tynecastle. Tom Rogic’s pristine goal looked to have won full points for the visitors, but Sow’s sensational effort tied what was a very even game and ensured a point for both sides.

Celtic had arrived on the back of seven successive wins at Tynecastle but there was little to separate the teams. Goals in each half from Nir Bitton and Rogic seemed enough to secure an eighth victory after Sam Nicholson’s equaliser in first-half stoppage time, however Sow stepped up to thump in an equaliser via a deflection in the dying seconds.

Prince Buaben slipped a free-kick to the Swede, who unleashed a left-footed drive which appeared to clip Gary Mackay-Steven before roaring into the top corner of Craig Gordon’s net. There was no denying Hearts deserved their point although they had left it late to level.

The afternoon started with Celtic in the ascendancy. Neil Alexander required two attempts to gather Nadir Ciftci’s effort at goal and then held Rogic’s left-footed shot. Jozo Simunovic’s header at the back post from Stuart Armstrong’s corner also forced the Hearts goalkeeper into a catch as Celtic fashioned the early scoring chances.

They were without Leigh Griffiths and Kris Commons and therefore looked less threatening. They were also forced into an unexpected change when midfielder Stuart Armstrong was replaced by James Forrest due to injury. Nicholson was the first to test Gordon as the hosts began asserting themselves. Their case was helped when Celtic had to make another alteration. This time, centre-back Dedryck Boyata hobbled off and Efe Ambrose was the replacement.

Hearts continued pressing, urged on by an enthusiastic home support. Gordon produced a crucial save low to his left on 34 minutes to stop Buaben opening the scoring from Arnaud Djoum’s low cross. The Celtic keeper then managed another vital stop to claw away Gavin Reilly’s attempt after Ambrose misjudged Juwon Oshaniwa’s loping ball forward.

Reilly was performing well in place of the suspended Juanma Delgado. His runs inbehind the visiting defence were causing problems. However, Celtic scored the opening goal of a frenetic and entertaining encounter three minutes from the interval.

Hearts centre-back Igor Rossi charged forward from defence after tackling Callum McGregor and left a gaping hole which the Glasgow club exploited. A quick ball forward was headed out by Morgaro Gomis - covering for Rossi - and McGregor collected it. His precise through pass found Bitton alone in the inside-left channel. The Israeli midfielder composed himself before stroking a calm finish beyond Alexander into the corner of the net.

Much to their credit, Hearts’ response was swift. A back-post cross from Buaben was converted on the run by Nicholson, ensuring the game was tied 1-1 at half-time. Celtic would have gone 2-1 ahead within seconds of the restart but for an instinctive stop by Alexander to deny Ciftci. It was a clear sign that the game still had plenty to offer.

It was the visitors who made much of the running, forcing their opponents back as the second half evolved. One foray forward saw Hearts fans appeal for a penalty when Ciftci challenged for Nicholson’s free-kick and seemed to dunt Blazej Augustyn from behind. Referee Steven McLean remained impassive.

The probing brought Celtic a reward on 69 minutes when they moved 2-1 ahead. Mikael Lustig’s cross was rolled out to Rogic on the 18-yard line by Bitton, and the Australian executed a fine left-footed finish into the top corner of the net.

The remainder of the game was rather scrappy with both teams looking tired after all the energy expended. Celtic were content to hold on to their slender advantage and leave with full points, although that didn’t feature in Sow’s plans. On an afternoon when good goals seemed to be the theme, the striker’s was the pick of the bunch.

Hearts (4-4-2): Alexander; Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi, Oshaniwa; Djoum (Pallardo 61), Gomis (Zanatta 87); Buaben, Reilly (King 80), Nicholson; Sow. Unused subs: Hamilton, Ozturk, McGhee, Swanson.

Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Boyata (Ambrose 32), Simunovic, Tierney; Biton, Johansen; McGregor, Rogic (Mackay-Steven 78), Armstrong (Forrest 21); Ciftci. Unused subs: Bailly, Izaguirre, Allan, Cole.

Referee: Steven McLean.

Attendance: 16,844.