It was a wonderful Wednesday for the green and white half of Glasgow as Celtic thumped Hearts 5-0, whilst ‘Rangers’ blinked “big time” at Rugby Park, falling to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Kilmarnock.
At Celtic Park, Neil Lennon’s side started on the front foot; Leigh Griffiths having the first good chance of the game when he combined with Edouard in the 12th minute and struck just over the bar. Three minutes later, James Forrest was in a superb position, but opted for power on the left foot as opposed a finessed finish. The keeper saved his effort and then managed to hold Lee Griffiths’ effort from the rebound.
Hearts did grow back into the game, but showed their vulnerability when Olivier Ntcham capitalised on a loose ball, however his pass to compatriot Edouard was cut out at the last moment. The Jambos responded by creating a good opportunity, thwarted only by a cynical foul courtesy of Jozo Simunovic. From the resulting free kick, Fraser Forster had to beat the ball away from a powerful drive.
The champions responded as champions do, regaining the initiative with Greg Taylor down the left side passing to Edouard, whose shot was parried to Ntcham, who volleyed home his second in as many games from close range. It was then the turn of another player in fine goalscoring form to be gifted an opportunity by Edouard, yet astonishingly Leigh Griffiths could only find the side netting with a golden opportunity in the 42nd minute.
It took Celtic just a minute to build on their first half performance, with Chris Jullien powering home a Griffiths corner into the roof of the net. Three minutes later, another Celtic corner caused havoc in the Hearts defence as Simunovic’s audacious scissor kick hit the post, and Scott Brown’s follow up header was tipped onto the woodwork by Pereira.
The Bhoys wasted no time in making amends. Indeed, Taylor burst down the left hand side and neatly cut the ball back to Callum McGregor, who, like his midfield colleague, scored his second goal in as many games with a low drive into the far corner.
Next, it was James Forrest hitting a rasping drive towards the top corner on the hour mark. Though Pereira made a phenomenal save to keep the score at 3-0. Hearts appeared buoyed by the stop, attacking for the first time in the second half, in the 63rd minute. On that occasion, Walker forced an incredible save from Forster, who managed to turn his effort round the post.
The game would be ended beyond doubt with the introduction of Ryan Christie, replacing Griffiths in the 64th minute. It was he who made it four for Celtic, within 180 seconds, when his deflected shot from a Taylor cross found its way into the far bottom corner.
With the game secure, Elyounoussi was given some much needed game time, coming onto replace Forrest for the final 20 minutes.
There was time for a trademark Odsonne Edouard free kick, though on this occasion his effort went marginally over the crossbar. Nevertheless, Ryan Christie’s corner was thundered home by Simunovic ten minutes from time, the Croatian making no mistake with a free header from eight yards.
Hearts’ Langer was sent off in the closing stages for a dangerous challenge, rubbing salt into the Jambo wounds. However, tonight was all about Celtic. Whilst the Hoops had done their job and then some, attention was turned to Rugby Park, where Stephen O’Donnell had equalised for Kilmarnock after Arfield’s superb long range goal had given ‘Rangers’ the lead. Things were to get better for Celtic though, as the final minute of play at Rugby Park, saw Eamonn Brophy take advantage of shocking defending. The attacker, whose childhood idol was Irishman, Robbie Keane, smashed a superb shot into the bottom corner to win the match for the Ayrshire club.
Full time results:
Celtic 5-0 Hearts
Kilmarnock 2-1 ‘Rangers’
The results mean that Celtic go ten points clear!
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