Thirteen shots on goal in the first-half. Hearts had one shot and that was in the first minute. This was a game Celtic looked like strolling, yet with six minutes of extra time we looked to hang on. Liam Boyce scored from an offside position in the 62nd minute to fling Hearts a lifeline they didn’t deserve. Before he was played in Carl Starfelt, who again was bullied and had another shocker, clearly pushed Simms. Neither of our centre halfs won balls in the air, but Carter-Vickers was better than his partner.
The Keystone cop element of Celtic’s defending came to the fore in the 71st minute. Carter-Vickers tried to shield the ball on the touchline but gave away a corner. The roar from the Tynecastle crowd told you all you needed to know. Penalty, 72nd minute. Both Bitton and O’Reily had handled. Liam Boyce hit the inside of the post. A massive let up, especially since Rangers had scored at Ibrox.
James McCarthy replaced O’Riley who went down with cramp. Giakoumakis spots Gordon off his line then tries to beat him from just inside the Hearts’ half. But an easy save for the Gorgie keeper.
Soro who came on for Hatte went off script with a minute of added time remaining and flung a cross into the Hearts’ box, which was easily picked up by Gordon, allowing the home team to finish with a flourish that died.
A new look Celtic starting line-up dazzled in the first half and gave us victory. Bitton comes back from injury to fill in for our captain McGregor and takes the captain’s arm band. Reo Hatte, who has played one game for us, joins him in central midfield. His last game was a man of the match performance. And here he opened the scoring after 27 minutes with an explosive goal, picking the ball up from the centre-circle and driving forward, hitting the ball from around thirty yards. He strolled most of the game but tired late on.
Big plus that Jota’s back, here he had shots on goal on 12th and 13th minutes. Easy enough saves, but early on, he looked our most dangerous play. Even better was his tracking back.
Forrest also gets a start, and he too had a few half chances in the first half.
The key, again, is out number 9. We can go Japanese, but here we went Greek. Giakoumakis really had to shine, which he did. I’d give him man of the match for his goal and constant battling qualities. Every game is must win. The beauty here is any centre-forward we play seems to keep scoring as he did on the 35th minute, giving us that 2—0 lead and a cushion that our play deserved.
O’Riley makes his debut. He’s six-feet two with good feet and helped boss the midfield. And showed what he can do setting up the second goal, with a forward pass into the Greek forward’s feet at the front post. A touch of class from Giakoumakis with a back-hell flick taking it in past Craig Gordon. This was a game we made hard for ourselves, deserved to win, but somehow looked to have snatched a draw. Great win. Move on to Dundee United. Another must win.