Ellis Simms shows promise on Hearts debut as Celtic earn narrow win at Tynecastle

Ellis Simms’ Hearts debut ended disappointingly as Celtic earned a narrow victory at Tynecastle Park.

Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 9:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th January 2022, 2:12 am

Reo Hatate and Georgios Giakoumakis scored in the visitors’ 2-1 win as Hearts’ new loan signing made his first appearance. He played the second 45 minutes but was unable to help his new side overhaul a two-goal deficit.

Liam Boyce scored in the second half to reduce the arrears before missing a penalty. The hosts fought admirably to regain parity but were ultimately left cursing a subdued first-half display and that spurned spot-kick. Celtic dominated the opening period before being pinned back for long spells by a fired-up, resurgent Hearts after the interval.

Simms showed some nice touches, strength, appetite and a fair turn of pace in attack after arriving from Everton. He could play a more integral role as the campaign progresses.

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Ellis Simms makes his Hearts debut against Celtic.

John Souttar returned to the Hearts starting line-up as Rangers ponder a second transfer bid for the defender before the January window closes. Celtic granted recent signing Matt O’Riley a debut in midfield following his £1.5million move from MK Dons.

Both teams warmed up in kit publicising the charity FC United to Prevent Suicide following the tragic death of 13-year-old Hearts fan Devin Gordon. There was also a standing ovation on the 13th minute as a mark of respect to the young man.

Celtic struck the evening’s first two shots on target moments later, Craig Gordon saving twice in quick succession from the dangerous Portuguese winger Jota.

Hearts were then forced into withdrawing full-back Michael Smith with what looked like a recurrence of his recent back injury. Nathaniel Atkinson stepped off the substitutes’ bench to make his home debut following Saturday’s Scottish Cup outing at Auchinleck.

Unfortunately for the Australian, his loose pass then gifted Celtic possession for the opening goal on 27 minutes. Nir Bitton intercepted Atkinson’s pass into midfield and Hatate collected the loose ball. The Japanese ran forward for a powerful 25-yard strike which screamed past Gordon into the net.

The Glasgow side doubled their advantage ten minutes from the break when O’Riley collected Hatate’s pass on the right and delivered it low towards Hearts’ six-yard box. Giakoumakis arrived at speed to nonchalantly flick the ball past Gordon with his back foot.

Television replays showed the Greek in an offside position and Hearts manager Robbie Neilson complained to match officials at half-time. Then he gave Simms an entrance in place of Josh Ginnelly.

Gordon’s saves from Josip Juranovic and Jota prevented further goals before the hour mark. The hosts dragged themselves back into this encounter when Boyce stroked McKay’s threaded pass through Joe Hart’s legs. Despite suspicions of offside, the flag stayed down. This game was a contest once again at 1-2.

And it should have been level when Hearts were awarded a penalty for handball by O’Riley following a corner. However, Boyce’s spot-kick careered off Hart’s right post.

Although maroon shirts were almost camped in opposition territory until the final whistle, the could not force an elusive equaliser.

Hearts (4-4-1-1): Gordon; M Smith (Atkinson 23), Souttar, Halkett (Halliday 80), Kingsley; Ginnelly (Simms 46), Devlin (Baningime 57), Haring, Cochrane (Mackay-Steven 57); McKay; Boyce.

Celtic (4-3-3): Hart; Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; O’Riley (McCarthy 85), Bitton, Hatate (Soro 90); Forrest, Giakoumakis, Jota (Abada 61).

Referee: John Beaton.

Attendance: 17,967.

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