Heart of Midlothian 2-1 Celtic
Saturday 31st July 2021, KO 20:00 | cinch Premiership | Tynecastle Park
Hearts grabbed a sensational opening day cinch Premiership victory with a last-gasp win against Celtic.
After an early strike from Gary Mackay-Steven put Hearts into the lead, Anthony Ralston levelled for Celtic after half-time, but John Souttar’s 89th minute header sealed a famous three points.
The Jambos brought in Beni Baningime for his debut in the heart of midfield after signing from Everton on Thursday.
The 5,000-plus inside Tynecastle were making a huge amount of noise early doors as the teams came out, and the SPFL Championship flag was unfurled prior to kick-off.
That noise only increased when, after a high-tempo start, Hearts deservedly took the lead. Souttar stepped out of defence, and played a pass down the line for Josh Ginnelly. Gino’s touch took him past Celtic debutant Carl Starfelt, and he cut the ball back for Liam Boyce. Boyce seemed to be crowded out but managed to poke the ball across goal for Mackay-Steven to tap in at the back post, sending Tynecastle into raptures.
As expected, Celtic began to see a lot of the ball and looked dangerous with their array of attacking talent. Odsonne Edouard was tripped on the edge of the area and David Turnbull’s free kick was diverted away for a corner. From that corner, Edouard headed at goal but was denied by Craig Gordon.
Hearts were playing on the counter, and Mackay-Steven did well to win a corner at the other end. From a Michael Smith delivery, Boyce headed over from 6 yards and perhaps should have done better. Celtic were now seeing three-quarters of the ball, and chances would come eventually. Liel Abada cut in from the right but shot over the bar.
Michael Smith then had a chance at the back post but shanked his effort wide when a square ball may have been on. Callum McGregor then stung the palms of Gordon with an effort from 20 yards, before Celtic had their best chance through David Turnbull, who blasted over after a cutback from Abada.
After the break, Celtic levelled. Ralston was given time and space and waltzed through a gap in the Hearts defence before finishing well past Gordon.
It looked like one-way traffic now, and Celtic pressured hard for ten minutes before Robbie Neilson made a tactical switch introducing Peter Haring for Mackay-Steven, and switching to a solid 5-3-2 formation, with Ginnelly moving up front.
The switch gave Hearts extra steel in midfield where the impressive Baningime and Halliday were starting to get overrun, and allowed Hearts to move the ball up the park more quickly and hold it there, helped by the introduction soon after of Armand Gnanduillet.
Celtic shuffled their pack too, bringing on Ryan Christie and Kyogo Furuhashi, and the former was involved immediately, bending a shot towards goal that Gordon did well to push away. However, Hearts were keeping Celtic in their own half, winning corners and set pieces, and it was from a free kick that the match was won.
Smith whipped a ball in from the left flank, and Souttar rose highest in the box to power a header home beyond Scott Bain, who was caught in no man’s land due to the quality of the delivery. There was bedlam in the stands, but the game wasn’t won yet.
James Forrest and Edouard produced a slick one-two in the 93rd minute and sent the winger through on goal. Tynecastle went silent as it seemed the inevitable sucker punch was coming, but Gordon flew out of his goal and somehow diverted the strike over the bar.
From the resulting corner, Starfelt powered a header at goal but Gordon dived to his left to tip the ball away, and that would be that for the visitors as referee Bobby Madden called time on a famous night in Gorgie.
Hearts: Gordon, M. Smith, Kingsley, Souttar, Baningime, Boyce, Mackay-Steven (Haring, 68'), Halliday, Cochrane, Halkett, Ginnelly (Gnanduillet, 77'). Subs: Stewart, McEneff, Henderson, C. Smith, Pollock.
Celtic: Bain, Taylor, Starfelt, Bitton, Abada (Furuhashi, 79'), Soro (Rogic, 90'), Turnbull (Christie, 79'), Edouard, McGregor, Forrest, Ralston. Subs: Barkas, Ajeti, Montgomery, Welsh.
Referee: Bobby Madden