Celtic faced Hearts for the second time in 3 days and for the second time swept their Edinburgh rivals aside with a degree of comfort. Frist half goals from Aaron Mooy and Kyogo were added to in the second half by a Carter-Vickers header, as Celtic booked their place in the Scottish Cup semi-finals for the 8th time in 10 seasons.
After being made to work for the three points at home on Wednesday night, a tough game was expected at Tynecastle this afternoon. The Gorgie venue, with its stands in such close proximity to the pitch, can be an intimidating place at times, especially if the home side is in the ascendency.
Celtic had won by a single goal on their previous two visits to Tynecastle and with the Cup representing the hosts last opportunity to lift any silverware this season, another tight affair was expected.
The Hoops, however, had other ideas and took the game to Hearts from the very beginning; Hatate stinging the palms of Zander Clark inside 60 seconds.
It did not take long for Celtic to break the deadlock as Aaron Mooy found himself in yards of space inside the box with time to side foot Jota’s cross past Clark. The goal may have come after only two minutes yet it was one that already had an air of inevitability about it.
The Mooy and Jota combination continued to pose Hearts problems down the right as Celtic shifted the focus of their attacks away from the left which had been the favoured attacking side of late.
On the left, Hakšabanović was struggling to make an impact in a rare starting appearance. The Montenegrin having earned his starting spot following a fine substitute performance in midweek, was someone that both John Hughes and I were excited to see in from the start. Unfortunately, with the game mainly being played on the other side of the pitch his chances to impress were limited.
Midway through the first-half Joe Hart made a superb double save down low to his left to deny Sibbick an unlikely equaliser after Celtic had failed to deal with a Hearts freekick. That was about as good as it got for Hearts.
Kyogo was inches away from receiving through balls from McGregor and Hatate that would have seen him clean through on goal before he did manage to get on the end of Johnston’s drilled near post cross to back heel past Clark, doubling Celtic’s advantage on the stroke of halftime.
The Japanese forwards movement and delightful finish were a joy to watch.
CELTS ON EASY STREET
Kobayashi replaced Starfelt at the break and settled in to the defence seamlessly alongside Carter-Vickers, looking calm and composed in possession, as Celtic strolled through the second half.
As noted by Paddy Sinat in the post-match show, Celtic rarely got out of second gear in the second half and they didn’t have to such was their control over the game.
Carter-Vickers, who had been outstanding defensively, added a third with 10 minutes to go, heading in a Matt O’Riley freekick to add the icing to the cake.
THE UGLY GAME
However, it would be remiss to write a report of the game without highlighting that, once again at Tynecastle, the safety of the Celtic players was called into question as objects were hurled from the Hearts support towards Joe Hart in the Celtic goal.
The Englishman at one point picking a projectile out of his goal and handing it to the referee to remove from the field of play.
In previous years we have had Hearts ‘fans’ attack Neil Lennon in the dugout and attempting to assault Scott Sinclair after his debut goal against Hearts. We’ve had glass bottles thrown at players and staff at Ibrox.
You would like to think that the cowardly culprits are apprehended and punished for their deplorable actions, but we don’t hold our breathe on that happening.
It’s time for Celtic and Scottish football as a whole to take a stand against these incidents and ensure the safety of the players on the park.
But let’s sign off on a positive note, Celtic were simply outstanding again today as they strolled to victory, piling on the agony and putting on the style as John Hughes brilliantly signed off the post-match show.