Hearts 0—3 Celtic

Scottish Cup. No ‘decapitations’ today at Tynecastle. Robbie Neilson’s bluster backfired as the Gorgie outfit gave Celtic more of a game midweek than they did in the Cup.  Mooy goal at the beginning of the game gave us the kind of start we’ve been lacking recently. Kyogo nipping in to score almost bang on the half-time whistle. Two goals up and cruising. Hearts had one shot on goal, which Hart did well to save and lifted himself to get the rebound. Carter-Vickers rising unmarked in the six-yard box to make it three near the end made it easy, but it could have been more than three.

Postecoglou said Carter-Vickers was the best defender in Scottish football. He’s getting better every week. His strength and pace and ability to pick out a pass makes him a strong candidate for player of the year. But there are so many others. Kyogo’s goals put him in front. It’s Carter-Vickers and one other most games. Usually that’s Starfelt. But the Swede picked up an injury and didn’t return for the second-half (with the game pretty much done). Yuki Kobayashi came on. His passing is crisp and he looks fine on the ball. My worry would be the Japanese defender might get bullied in the air. But it didn’t happen today.

Postecoglou made a few changes in midweek, but we’re back to the tried and tested. Some are more straightforward than others. Johnson and Taylor in for Ralston and Bernabei in defence. Johnstone’s cross helped create the second goal. He got in behind the Hearts defence from a throw-in. A simple enough ball, whipped across the box. Kyogo deflected it in with his heel, with another sublime touch.

 Hatate for O’Riley in midfield. The Japanese midfielder had a shot saved even before Mooy had scored. At 2—0 up, he got on the end of a clearance and his shot was blocked by a defender. Our midfield took total control of the game.

 Kyogo, up front, obviously. Jota might not be guaranteed a start, but with Maeda injured he’s a much better chance. He helped create the first goal, whipping a ball into Mooy’s foot, which the Australian powered into the net past Zander Diamond before he could react. Jota is better on the left, but plays on the right. He’d the best of both worlds against Hearts.  

 Haksabanovic gets his first start since his injury. He helped created a chance of Hatate even before Mooy had scored.  He edged out Abada, who was terrific with a man of the match performance after coming on a substitute against St Mirren, but was pretty anonymous against today’s opponents Hearts in midweek. The young Montenegrin hasn’t got Abada’s pace, but in a tight pitch his guile adds another dimension. It also helps he scored an absolute bumper against Hearts on Wednesday. He was due a start. But like Abada in midweek, he just didn’t do enough to pull away from the others in the team-sheet pecking order. He was replaced predictably enough by Abada just after half-time.  

Next week away to Hibs. We’re going to win the league. We await the Scottish Cup draw to see whether we get Rangers in the semi-final or the final, and last game of the season shoot-out. Either or, we’re much better than anyone else. But they can beat us. Just as Hibs can. I like the humility of this Celtic team. All on song. All singing from the same team-sheet. Those who made a fuss and asked about leaving were let go. Simple. That’s what good management is. That’s where we are now. Whisper it, we’re on line for the treble.   


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