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  • Celts draw at Tynecastle

    Celts draw at Tynecastle

    By: Mark Henderson on 27 Dec, 2015 16:09

  • Scottish Premiership
    Tynecastle, Edinburgh
    Sunday, December 27, 2015

    HEARTS...2
    (Nicholson 45 + 1, Sow 90))

    CELTIC...2
    (Bitton 42, Rogic 70)

    DESPITE taking the lead twice at Tynecastle, Celtic had to settle for a share of the spoils against Hearts in a captivating contest in the capital.

    Nir Bitton’s composed finish had put the Hoops in front three minutes before the break, but Sam Nicholson quickly cancelled that out to leave the scores level at the interval.  

    The Bhoys were the better team in the second half and Tom Rogic deservedly put them back into the lead with a sublime strike from the edge of the area.

    However, Osman Sow’s deflected free-kick at the death denied them maximum reward, a cruel outcome for Ronny Deila’s side after they had worked so hard to get back into a winning position.  

    Stefan Johansen and Stuart Armstrong were both restored to the starting XI as the manager made two changes to the team that lost to Motherwell last week.

    The pair came into the side at the expense of Kris Commons and James Forrest, with the latter named among the substitutes. Nadir Ciftci continued to lead the line up front in the absence of Leigh Griffiths.

    Inside the first minute, Callum McGregor won a corner after some positive play down the right as Celtic started with real intent and purpose.

    Although the resultant set-piece didn’t amount to anything, the Hoops maintained their early momentum as McGregor picked out Ciftci on the edge of the area, with the Turkish striker curling a shot over.

    Moments later Tom Rogic spotted the run of Ciftci in the box. The former Dundee United man took a touch before bringing out a low save from Neil Alexander.

    Rogic was next to try his luck, his drive from distance pushed away by Alexander. The corner count was also mounting up for the visitors, though they were unable to capitalise on these set-piece situations. A Jozo Simunovic header at the far post that was straight at Alexander was their only meaningful effort on target.  

    It took until the 21st minute for Hearts to muster their first shot on goal as Nicholson blazed over from long range.

    At the other end, James Forrest, an early replacement for the injured Stuart Armstrong, sent a half-volley over after retrieving Lustig’s cross at the far post.

    Dedryck Boyata was also forced from the fray just beyond the half-hour mark, with Efe Ambrose coming on to fill the void in central defence.

    After the Hoops’ early dominance, the home side were now growing into the game. Nicholson saw another shot comfortably saved by Gordon and Celtic’s No.1 then had to make an outstanding reaction stop, clawing away Prince Bauben’s close-range effort.

    Gavin Reilly was then to threaten, getting in behind the Celtic backline and seeing his low shot pushed around the post by Gordon.

    After a Hearts corner had been knocked back into the mix, Igor Rossi saw his header caught by Gordon, before Nicholson was unable to hit the target from an acute angle.

    But just as Robbie Neilson’s side were enjoying their best spell of the match, Celtic struck. After a mistake by defender Blazej Augustyn, McGregor nodded the ball into Bitton’s path and the Israeli coolly rolled the ball into the far corner.

    On the stroke of half-time, however, Hearts levelled the match. Buaben sent a searching cross into the box and Nicholson managed to get in front of Mikael Lustig at the back post to volley home.

    Ciftci gave early notice of Celtic’s intent to quickly restore their advantage as the second half got underway.

    Chasing a long ball into the box, he showed superb strength to win possession and hold off a defender, before testing Alexander with an angled drive.

    Ronny Deila’s side had now re-established a degree of control on the contest and they fashioned a couple of promising positions down the flanks.

    And it was from a low cross from Lustig that Johansen came close in the 57th minute, the Norwegian’s powerful first-time attempt flashing wide of the post.

    Forrest shot wide after cutting inside from the left, before Celtic went ahead for the second time with 20 minutes left on the clock. Lustig’s cross was retrieved by Bitton and he managed to shield the ball and tee-up up Rogic, who sent an unstoppable shot into the net via the underside of the bar.

    For all Hearts’ endeavour, they had failed to trouble a resilient Hoops side in the second half, and it was the Bhoys who looked the more likely to find the net on the break.

    But in the 90th minute, they were cruelly denied the three points. Substitute Billy King was fouled 30 yards from goal and Sow’s fizzing free-kick took a touch off Gary Mackay-Steven to find the top corner past the stranded Gordon.

     CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata (Ambrose 33) Simunovic, Tierney; Bitton, Johansen; McGregor, Rogic (Mackay-Steven 78) Armstrong (Forrest 21); Ciftci
    Not Used: Bailly, Izaguirre, Ambrose, Allan, Cole

    HEARTS (4-4-1-1) Alexander; Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi, Oshaniwa; Bauben, Gomis (Zanatta 86) Djoum (Pallardo 62), Nicholson; Reilly (King 80), Sow
    Not Used: Hamilton, Ozturk McGhee, Swanson

    Website Man of the Match: Callum McGregor

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