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  • Celts close in on five-in-a-row after Hearts win

    Celts close in on five-in-a-row after Hearts win

    By: Mark Henderson on 30 Apr, 2016 14:34

  • Scottish Premiership
    Tynecastle, Edinburgh
    Saturday, April, 2016

    (Dauda 57)

    (Kazim-Richards 17, Roberts 67, Griffiths 85)

    CELTIC moved within touching distance of a historic fifth successive league title after second-half goals from Leigh Griffiths and Patrick Roberts sealed a gutsy 3-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle. 

    The result moved the Hoops 12 points clear of second-placed Aberdeen, who must harvest a victory over Motherwell later today to deny Ronny Deila’s side the championship, though the Bhoys’ vastly superior goal difference means they already have one hand on the trophy.

    Colin Kazim-Richards deservedly opened the scoring for the visitors after neat touch and finish from Mikael Lustig’s cross.

    Celtic had been the better side in the first-half but the hosts rallied after the restart and equalised through Abiola Dauda’s run and finish.

    Patrick Roberts showed composure to put the Hoops back in front after charging down a defensive clearance and, fittingly, it was Griffiths who secured the points with his 39th goal of a sensational season, the hit-man rifling home at the near post after some tenacious closing down.

    The final was the spark of celebrations in front of the away end as the manager, backroom staff and the players saluted the jubilant Hoops faithful.   

    The manager had made two changes to the team that were held by Ross County last week, with Efe Ambrose and Callum McGregor coming into the team at the expense of Charlie Mulgrew and Tom Rogic. The former missed out through injury, while the Australian internationalist was named among the substitutes.

    Space was a premium in the opening exchanges as both teams fought for supremacy and played at a furious tempo amid a raucous atmosphere.

    Gradually, Celtic began to string some passes together and carve a path through the sea of maroon and white. A neat interchange of passes in the 12th minute allowed Patrick Roberts to cut into the box from the right. His initial was shot was saved by Neil Alexander and the rebound was converted by McGregor but the offside flag cut short the celebrations.

    Moments later, Roberts found himself in the clear after being found by Nir Bitton. Again, Alexander came to his side’s rescue with a low save and the keeper reacted swiftly to tip over Leigh Griffiths’ rebound.

    An enterprising burst down he left from Kieran Tierney, in which he stormed clear of two Hearts players, fashioned the next opening for the champions but Griffiths was unable to direct his header on target.

    Prince Buaben saw yellow for catching Scott Brown’s head with arm and Roberts saw claims for a foul on him by Blazej Augustyn on the edge of the box waved away as the home side struggled to stem the tide.

    Eventually their resistance was broken. Roberts and McGregor worked the ball wide to the overlapping Mikael Lustig and his deep cross was met by Kazim-Richards, who chested the ball down and lashed past Alexander.

    That stung Hearts into offensive action and, after Arnaud Djoum had cut the ball back from the byline, Craig Gordon has to make a superb double save from Jamie Walker’s shot and the rebound from Juanma, through the striker was flagged for offside in any event.

    Although Celtic remained largely in control, aside from several corners, they weren’t crafting as many clear openings, with the match returning to its initial scrappy phase.

    Griffiths, however, was presented with a golden opportunity to double the advantage around five minutes before the interval. After Celtic had partially cleared a Hearts corner, Bitton blocked a shot and Griffiths took the loose ball in his stride on the halfway line and bore down on Alexander, but his low attempt took a touch off the keeper and trundled inches wide.

    Hearts made a double change at the break in a bid to get back into match, with Callum Paterson and Abiola Dauda replacing Augustyn and Don Cowie, and they started the second half with greater purpose.

    Within three minutes of the restart, Djoum drove through the middle and his deflected drive forced Gordon into a terrific reaction save.

    After Griffiths had dragged a shot off target at the other end, Robbie Neilson’s side threatened again from a corner, with Brown eventually getting the ball clear. Dauda then sent a half-volley narrowly wide. 

    However, the substitute wasn’t to be denied and he levelled the match in the 57th minute. Showing strength and pace, he ploughed a path through the middle of Celtic rearguard, before flashing a low shot beyond Gordon.

    The champions responded with a Griffiths free-kick that was charged down by the wall and a looping header from Bitton that landed on the top of the net following a corner.

    Midway through the half, they dug deep to restore their lead. Roberts charged down a Hearts clearance before running through on goal and coolly rolling the ball under Alexander.

    Determined not to lose their advantage slip again, Celtic defended with resilience as the hosts’ attacking forays gradually petered out, and Griffiths’ ensured a nerve-free finish to proceedings, firing home at the near post after blocking another poor Hearts clearance.

    CELTIC (4-3-3) Gordon; Lustig, Ambrose, Sviatchenko, Tierney; McGregor, Brown (Commons 90+3) Bitton; Roberts (Rogic 69), Griffiths (Griffiths 87), Kazim-Richards
    Not Used: Bailly, Christie, Izaguirre, Janko

    HEARTS (4-1-4-1) Alexander; Souttar, Ozturk, Augustyn (Paterson 46), Oshaniwa; Kitchen; Cowie (Dauda 46), Bauben (Nicholson 77), Djoum, Walker; Juanma
    Not Used: Hamilton, Pallardo, Reilly, McGhee

    Website Man of the Match: Erik Sviatchenko 

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