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  • Champions fight back to break Hearts

    Champions fight back to break Hearts

    By: Tony Connelly on 06 May, 2018 14:16

  • Scottish Premiership
    Sunday, May 6, 2018
    Tynecastle, Edinburgh

    HEARTS…1
    (Lafferty 17)

    CELTIC…3
    (Boyata 21, Dembele 51, Sinclair 90+4)

    CELTIC showed their champion-winning mentality to come from behind and take all three points away to Hearts.

    Brendan Rodgers' side initially went behind but grew stronger as the game progressed and eventually ran out 3-1 winners at Tynecastle.

    Kyle Lafferty fired the home side ahead in the first half but Hearts only held the lead for three minutes before Dedryck Boyata headed in an equaliser. Celtic secured the win in the second half thanks to goals from Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair.

    A French duo of Dembele and Odsonne Edouard started up front for the seven-in-a-row champions, who clinched the league title last weekend with a 5-0 win over Rangers at Paradise.

    Brendan Rodgers made two changes to that side with Scott Bain replacing Craig Gordon in goal and Kieran Tierney dropping out.

    The game started with a high tempo as both sides looked to assert themselves but chances were limited in the early stages.

    The home side’s attempts to craft an opening consisted of long balls over the top for Lafferty but Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer ensured there were no gaps in the centre of defence.

    Lafferty did eventually find a breakthrough when Lewis Moore flicked a pass on to him and the forward smashed home with a right-footed half-volley from just inside the box.

    The Hoops responded immediately though to level the scoring within three minutes. A Celtic free-kick from 35 yards saw Olivier Ntcham deliver a cross to the back post and Boyata got on the end of it with a fantastic header back across goal and into the far corner.

    A flurry of chances soon followed as Celtic found their rhythm and moved up a gear as they created more openings going forward.

    A second goal almost came when James Forrest threaded a neat pass in behind the opposition defence for Dembele but McLaughlin was quick off his line and managed to block the shot.

    The confidence Hearts showed in the early stages dwindled as Celtic upped the pace and continued to probe for an opening.

    John Souttar’s nerves got the better of him when he failed to deal with a long ball over the top for Dembele. The French striker snatched the ball from the defender on the edge of the box and tried to lift it over McLaughlin but could only find the top of the crossbar.

    Callum McGregor’s duties in defence meant his influence in midfield was missed, but the 24-year-old still threatened in attack and came close to handing his side the lead when he cut inside and curled a shot towards the far corner but his effort was off target.

    Both sides continued to attack in the closing stages of the half and Boyata made another valuable contribution when he blocked Lafferty’s shot at the back post shortly before the break.

    Celtic started the second half on the front foot deservedly took the lead early on thanks to some sublime football from Tom Rogic.

    The Australian showed great awareness and vision to pick out Dembele’s run into the box with an inch-perfect 30-yard chip using the outside of his left-foot. Dembele controlled the ball expertly as he took it down and coolly tucked it beyond McLaughlin.

    Celtic grew in strength as the game progressed, while the home side looked increasingly ragged and failed to create any real chances after Boyata sat deeper to close any space for a long ball in behind.

    Edouard was substituted for Scott Sinclair after walking off with an injury while Dembele was replaced by Stuart Armstrong.

    The changes did nothing to curb Celtic’s momentum going forward, and Forrest nearly increased his side’s lead after Sinclair’s cleaver back heel opened up an opportunity inside the box, but the 26-year-old curled his shot just wide of the far post.

    Forrest became a prominent player in attack following the substitutions and troubled the Hearts defence through the middle.

    He created a great chance for Armstrong when he slipped him through but McLaughlin again saved his side to deny the Scotland international. The attempted clearance bounced off Rogic and, luckily for Hearts, came off the outside of the post.

    Celtic’s high pressing and desire to increase their lead troubled the Hearts defence who continued to lose possession in their own half. Once such instance saw Forrest win the ball before cutting inside and rolling a pass to Rogic but the shot from the edge of the box was straight at the keeper.

    Armstrong almost killed the game off in added time when he latched on to a superbly-weighted pass from Patrick Roberts out on the right but he shot straight at the goalkeeper rather than cut it back for Sinclair to tap into an empty net.

    He made amends for his mistake right at the end when he skipped past three players inside the box and cut a pass back for Sinclair to cushion over the line.

    CELTIC (4-1-2-3) Bain; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, McGregor; Brown; Rogic (Roberts 82), Ntcham; Forrest, Dembele (Armstrong 60), Edouard (Sinclair 54)
    Not Used: De Vries, Hendry, Simunovic,  Miller

    HEARTS (3-4-2-1) McLaughlin; Souttar, Smith, Berra; Smith, Cowie, Moore (Amankwaa 56), Callachan; Naismith, Adao (Cochrane 70); Lafferty (Henderson 83)
    Not Used: Hamilton, Hughes, McDonald, Smith

    Website Man of the Match: James Forrest

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