Celtic 3-1 Heart of Midlothian
Sunday 25th August 2019, KO 15:00 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Celtic Park
Hearts were defeated at Celtic Park in baking conditions this afternoon.
Celtic took a three-goal lead through an own goal from Christophe Berra, a Callum McGregor strike and an own goal from Craig Halkett, while a late Conor Washington goal reduced the deficit.
The visitors entered the match in good spirits following their progression to the Betfred Cup quarter-finals but ultimately some poor defending proved costly as Celtic ran out comfortable winners.
Craig Levein made one enforced change to the side that defeated Motherwell last weekend in the Betfred Cup. Jamie Walker missed out after suffering a broken leg in Lanarkshire, so Glenn Whelan made his Hearts debut in the heart of midfield.
Victorious in Europe on Thursday night against AIK of Sweden, Neil Lennon’s side drafted in Fraser Forster for his second debut after joining on loan from Southampton while Vakoun Issouf Bayo made his first start for the Bhoys.
Hearts were holding firm in the opening twenty minutes of the match, restricting Celtic to a lot of possession without creating any clear cut chances, but they were dealt a blow early on when Michael Smith limped off with an injury to his left leg; with the right-back replaced by Jamie Brandon.
Celtic had their first effort on target after 25 minutes. After a flurry of corners, Ryan Christie’s deep delivery was met by Bayo at the back post but Joel Pereira was sharp to the header and pushed the ball around the post.
The hosts took the lead on the half-hour. A cross-field ball from Christie found James Forrest on the left and his first-time cross landed between Christophe Berra and Craig Halkett, with the skipper getting the final touch to divert the ball beyond Pereira.
The Jambos had their first effort on target on 39 minutes. A long ball caught out Christopher Jullien and Conor Washington got in ahead of him. Forster was quick off his line to stop Washington but his touch was heavy and Loic Damour nipped in ahead of the keeper and was brought down, leading to a yellow card for the keeper.
From the free kick, the ball broke back out to Aaron Hickey, and his first-time half-volley was well struck but Forster saved low to his left.
After the break, Celtic doubled their lead nine minutes into the second half. Damour was caught on the ball outside the area and was robbed by Christie, who set up Callum McGregor to fire home from 20 yards past Pereira.
On the hour, Celtic made it three. Nir Bitton played a cross-field pass to Kris Ajer on the right flank, with the Norwegian taking a touch and playing a simple ball across the face of goal, which was accidentally diverted home by Halkett.
Bayo almost had his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining after a counter from Celtic. Forrest beat Hickey down the wing and his cross to the back post was met by Bayo, but the forward’s header rebounded back off the post and away to safety.
The Jambos were handed a lifeline on 80 minutes when Sean Clare was brought down in the area by Scott Brown. Forster saved Washington’s spot-kick but the striker was sharp to it and put away the rebound to reduce the arrears, but they were unable to create any more clear-cut chances as time ran down.
Celtic: Forster, Julien, Bitton, Brown, Bayo (Griffiths, 78'), Christie, Ntcham (Johnston, 69'), Bolingoli, Ajer (Ralston, 87'), McGregor, Forrest. Subs: Gordon, Hayes, Shved, Edouard.
Hearts: Pereira, M. Smith (Brandon, 18'), Berra, Clare, Washington, Mulraney (White, 81'), Whelan, Damour (Ikpeazu, 70'), Halkett, Irving, Hickey. Subs: Doyle, Bozanic, Dikamona, Henderson.
Referee: Willie Collum