Hearts 0 Celtic 4: Hoops rediscover league form to keep chasing pack at bay
23:32 GMT, 28 November 2012
At the final whistle Neil Lennon marched towards a celebratory away support. On a typically raucous night at Tynecastle, normal relations between the Celtic manager and his people were fully restored.
After a weekend of verbals with his own supporters, the Northern Irishman revelled in a display he described as ‘clinical’. It was an accurate description.
And yet this was a strange old night. Hearts have played worse than this and won. For the home team, a four-goal drubbing against a ruthless, relentless opponent felt like a surgical procedure.
Party time: Celtic celebrate their win over Hearts in Edinburgh
Hearts: MacDonald, Ryan McGowan, Webster, Zaliukas, McHattie, Paterson, Dylan McGowan (Robinson 63), Barr, Walker (Driver 68), Holt (Taouil 58),Stevenson.
Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Sutton, Gordon Smith, Novikovas.
Celtic: Forster, Lustig (Matthews 68), Ambrose, Wilson, Mulgrew, Commons, Kayal, Wanyama, Ledley (Brown 69), Nouioui (Samaras 80), Hooper.
Subs Not Used: Zaluska, Miku, Watt, McGeouch.
Booked: Ambrose, Wanyama, Wilson.
Goals: Nouioui 10, Lustig 22, Stevenson 30 og, Hooper 83.
Ref: William Collum
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Celtic lacerated their opponents in a blistering first half, scoring three via Lassad Nouioui, Mikael Lustig and a Ryan Stevenson own goal.
The finishing touch came in the 84th minute via Gary Hooper. /11/28/article-2239964-164206C0000005DC-690_634x406.jpg” width=”634″ height=”406″ alt=”In front: Lassad Nouioui calmly volleys home the opening goal of the game” class=”blkBorder” />
In front: Lassad Nouioui calmly volleys home the opening goal of the game
Nouioui scored one goal as a substitute at Aberdeen and started here in place of Georgios Samaras. Lennon’s decision was perfectly vindicated when the Tunisian thumped the Commons cross low into the net from 12 yards first time.
In the aftermath of some poor SPL form, it was precisely the start Celtic’s manager demanded. And the scoreline would suggest that Hearts simply crumbled thereafter.
The truth, however, was somewhat different.
With a raft of kids in their ranks, the home team won the first of a series of free-kicks 25 yards from goal when Jamie Walker was felled. Stevenson floated his effort across goal and Callum Paterson — an unconvincing striker — failed to connect.
Stranded: Goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald can't prevent Mikael Lustig doubling Celtic' lead
Hearts also had two penalty claims of the dubious variety, the first for a handball by Nouioui then a clash between Kelvin Wilson and Paterson in the area. Correctly, referee Willie Collum said no both times. They would eventually have their spot kick, but by then the game was gone.
Celtic found a second in 23 minutes, the unlikely figure of Swedish right back Lustig the scorer.
Collecting a flicked pass from Lassad the full-back made for the byeline and cut inside, driving the ball towards the six-yard area where it eventually fell to Lustig who drove it low into the net.
A critical intervention from Forster in 26 minutes proved crucial for Celtic. The England international produced an incredible double save to parry Stevenson’s stinging free-kick before springing up to push a point-blank header from Marius Zaliukas away.
For the team in maroon it was a heartbreaking moment. Scoring goals has been a persistent problem for a team devoid of bona fide proven strikers. And, it should be said, good fortune.
Bad timing: Ryan Stevenson (centre) puts the ball beyond his own goalkeeper to gift Celtic a third
That much became clear with Celtic’s third goal, a cruel, wicked effort which had no right to spin into the net.
A long, deep cross from the right from Commons ran past everybody before being retrieved on the touchline by the well-advanced Charlie Mulgrew.
A first-time cutback was speculative and paid off when it ricocheted off the shin of the luckless Stevenson and somehow looped into the far corner of the net from the narrowest of angles for 3-0.
Within minutes of the restart, Forster again denied McGlynn’s team in quite superb fashion.
This time it was the young left-back Kevin McHattie, deputising for the injured Danny Grainger, who tried his luck from a free-kick conceded by an already booked Efe Ambrose. A stirring left-foot strike was seen late by the keeper. Yet, that was no impediment to another of the one-handed stops.
/11/28/article-2239964-1642910F000005DC-504_634x439.jpg” width=”634″ height=”439″ alt=”All over: Celtic's Gary Hooper (left) scores the fourth goal against Hearts” class=”blkBorder” />
All over: Celtic's Gary Hooper (left) scores the fourth goal against Hearts
But what spirit Hearts offered by now was of the token variety; Ryan McGowan took umbrage at the ball juggling of Commons before returning the ball from an injury. It was handbags stuff, but it stirred the crowd up.
Celtic’s main concern by now was one of self preservation. Despite Ambrose and Wanyama booked and the contest raging around them, a limping Lustig left the pitch gingerly and may now be a doubt for the Champions League clash with Spartak Moscow. Joe Ledley also took his leave for Scott Brown.
In addition to Taouil, McGlynn introduced Scott Robinson. On a night when Kelvin Wilson joined Forster in forming a human barrier, however, it was all to no avail.
Celtic’s fourth came six minutes from time, however, Hooper guiding the ball home from Mulgrew’s piercing cross from the left touchline.
Hearts couldn’t even score from the penalty spot. In his only moment of uncertainty all night Wilson conceded a soft penalty at the death, colliding with Stevenson during a moment of confusion. Forster’s save was terrific, yet typical. It was that kind of night.