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  • Celtic's record-breaking unbeaten run comes to an end at Hearts

    Celtic's record-breaking unbeaten run comes to an end at Hearts

    By: Tony Connelly on 17 Dec, 2017 14:53

  • Scottish Premiership
    Tynecastle, Edinburgh
    Sunday, December 17, 2017

    HEARTS…4
    (Cochrane 26, Lafferty 34, Milinkovic 47, 75)

    CELTIC…0

    CELTIC’S  incredible 69-game domestic unbeaten run came to an end today as the six-in-a-row champions tasted defeat for the first time in a year-and-a-half with a 4-0 away loss to Hearts.

    An organised and aggressive Hearts side frustrated the Hoops as the record-breaking run finally came to a conclusion in the capital. Goals from Harry Cochrane and Kyle Lafferty gave Hearts a two-goal lead going into half-time. David Milinkovic then scored early in the second half before bagging his brace from the penalty spot.

    It was a disappointing result for the Scottish treble-winners but the Celtic support stayed until the final whistle to salute Brendan Rodgers and his players for their tremendous consistency over the past 18 months, and the team will be determined to bounce back in Wednesday's night's Glasgow derby against Partick Thistle.

    The manager had made four changes to the side which beat Hamilton 3-1 at Paradise in midweek with Griffiths replacing Odsonne Edouard up front. The Scotland internationalist was supported by Callum McGregor and Scott Sinclair in attack, with James Forrest and Kieran Tierney out on the wings. Olivier Ntcham paired up with captain Scott Brown in the centre of midfield in front of a back-three of Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata.

    The home side made a positive start and showed aggression in the opening stages as they pressed Celtic high up the pitch. This presented opportunities for the Hoops on the counter attack which Ntcham took advantage of early on. The French midfielder collected the ball deep inside Celtic’s half and broke forward before threading a wonderful pass through to Sinclair. Connor Randall’s well- timed sliding tackle inside the box was enough to stop the Celtic winger getting his shot off though.

    Hearts then gave Celtic a scare when Lafferty controlled a ball over the top of the defence with his chest and broke free, however, the linesman had flagged him offside. The hosts came close to grabbing a goal from a set piece when Christophe Berra’s glancing at the near post flashed past Craig Gordon’s goal.

    Celtic continued to open up Hearts on the counter attack and Forrest created a couple of golden opportunities for Griffiths. The Scotland striker slipped at the crucial moment for the first chance and hit the side netting with his shot moments later, after peeling away from his marker on the edge of the area.

    Hearts’ high pressing game paid off in the 26th minute. Don Cowie won the ball deep inside the Celtic half before working the ball to Harry Cochrane on the edge of the penalty box. The 16-year-old controlled the ball and quickly fired off a low shot into the bottom corner to give Craig Levein’s side the lead.

    Craig Gordon made a wonderful to deny Milinkovic from close range but Hearts found the back of the net for a second time with ten minutes remaining in the half. Milinkovic received the ball on the halfway line and slipped the ball out to Lafferty who was wide open on the right. The striker lashed in a low shot from the edge of the area to double Hearts’ advantage.

    Brendan Rodgers made two changes at half time, with Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong coming on for Kieran Tierney and Olivier Ntcham. Celtic showed more attacking intent at the start of the second half, particularly Forrest who troubled the opposition with direct runs and crosses into the box.

    The Hoops were dealt another blow early in the second half when a defensive error gifted Milinkovic a goal. Gordon rushed off his line to try and thwart the danger but Milinkovic was well positioned to round the Hoops keeper and slot beyond a covering Lustig.

    Celtic piled the pressure on Hearts as they went in search of a way back into the game and flooded Jon McLaughlin’s goalmouth with a steady stream of attacks. Griffiths forced a wonderful save from the Hearts keeper when he cut inside and fired a rocket of a shot from 20 yards.

    As the Bhoys continued to pour forward, Sinclair caused problems with his pace and trickery but he uncharacteristically fired over from inside the box after doing well to open up space inside the box. Moments later he almost set up Griffiths but his final ball across goal was just beyond his team-mate.

    Instead, it was the hosts who found the net. Ross Callachan won a penalty in the 75th minute after Gordon’s outstretched arm brought him down in the box and Milinkovic converted from the spot kick.

    Hearts defended deep for the remainder of the half and made life difficult for the Hoops. Dembele was unable to test McLaughlin from his half volley inside the area and Edouard fired wide of the far post with his own half volley.

    Griffiths almost grabbed a consolation goal in the dying minutes when he ran across goal and let off a shot which was straight at the McLaughlin. Sinclair, similarly, came close after cutting inside and unleashing a right- footed shot but Berra blocked the effort inside a crowded Hearts’ box.

    CELTIC (3-4-2-1) Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata; Forrest, Ntcham (Armstrong 45), Brown, Tierney (Dembele 45); McGregor (Edouard 67), Sinclair; Griffiths
    Not Used: De Vries, Ajer, Hayes, Kouassi

    HEARTS (4-5-1) McLaughlin; Brandon, Buaben (McDonald 67), Berra, Smith; Cochrane, Callachan (Grzelak 84), Cowie, Randall, Milinkovic; Lafferty (Stockton 71)
    Not Used: Hamilton, Hughes, Keena, Goncalves

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