Celtic 3-0 Heart of Midlothian
Hearts were on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline against Celtic in tonight's Scottish League Cup tie at Celtic Park.
The outcome could've been much different had Jamie Walker not rattled the bar and Osman Sow converted a second-half penalty, but the unfortunate Jambos were sunk by goals from John Guidetti, Kris Commons and an Adam Eckersley own goal.
Robbie Neilson was able to welcome Sam Nicholson back into the fold but had to make do without the services of Billy King, as Hearts set out their attacking stall.
Though it was the men in maroon who enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the opening five minutes, Celtic were first to register a serious attack on Neil Alexander's goal. Scott Brown did well to keep the ball and tee-up Anthony Stokes on the edge of the box, but his effort was screwed wide.
Hearts continued to press and looked incredibly impressive in midfield. Callum Paterson skinned his man in the 12th minute to bomb down the right and send over an inviting cross into the box but the outstretched Sow just failed to make the crucial contact in the six-yard box.
A mistake almost gifted Celtic the opener two minutes later. A ball into the box was left by Alim Ozturk, unaware John Guidetti was on his shoulder, but the on-loan Manchester City striker's dink fell the wrong side of Alexander's right-hand post.
The hosts grew in confidence and proceeded to bombard the Hearts goal. Scott Brown came closest in 22 minutes with a spectacular long-rage effort, but Alexander stood firm to push the ball wide.
One minute later the deadlock was broken and it was the home side who got their noses in front. Emilio Izaguirre's cross into the box was headed into the air by the backtracking Danny Wilson and Guidetti fired a half-volley beyond Alexander.
Guidetti almost made it 2-0 moments later. Callum McGregor's low drive was flicked goalwards by the Swede, but with Alexander wrongfooted Eckersley was on-hand to clear off the line.
Alexander displayed terrific reactions to stop from his own man as Izaguirre's 33rd minute cross was mis-hit by Morgaro Gomis, but the Hearts no. 1 pounced to push the ball away to safety.
Hearts were inches away from grabbing the equaliser before half-time when a slack pass-back allowed Walker to run-in on Celtic's goal but his shot agonisingly crashed off the crossbar and away from danger.
The second-half burst into life in the 53rd minute when Hearts were awarded a penalty after Virgil van Dijk pulled back Sow inside the box. The big striker dusted himself down to take the spot-kick but ended up blasting it over the bar.
Incredibly, Celtic went straight up the park and got a penalty of their own. Guidetti looked to latch on to a through-ball but was bundled over by Ozturk inside the area. Commons stepped up and rifled the ball home to make it 2-0.
Hearts found themselves 3-0 on the hour mark in the cruelest of fashions. Stokes' cross to the back post was chested down by Eckersley, but he could only steer it beyond his own goalkeeper and into the back of the net for a horror own goal.
Though it would've been easy for heads to go down, the Jambos continued to probe and refused to crumble when others might have. Soufian El Hassnaoui, James Keatings and Jason Holt were brought on but the maroons couldn't make the breakthrough in the final third.
A disappointing night for the Championship leaders as in the end Celtic proved why they are the champions of Scotland, but plenty to be positive about for Robbie's lads who now focus on Livingston this weekend.
Celtic: Gordon, Ambrose, van Dijk, Denayer (O'Connell, 46'), Izaguirre, Brown, Johansen, McGregor (Tonev, 72'), Commons, Stokes, Guidetti (Scepovic, 64'). Subs: Zaluska, Bitton, Griffiths, Kayal.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Wilson, Ozturk, Gomis, Walker (Keatings, 78'), Nicholson, Buaben, Carrick (Holt, 63'), Sow (El Hassnaoui, 78'), Eckersley. Subs: Gallacher, McHattie, Robinson, Holt, McGhee.
Referee: Willie Collum
Top man: Prince Buaben
Today on HeartsTV - EXCLUSIVE post-match reaction from Robbie Neilson.