Hearts and Celtic battled it out to a 2-2 draw at Tynecastle this afternoon.
Sam Nicholson pegged back Nir Bitton’s opener, before Tom Rogic put the visitors in front again, but Osman Sow’s stunning injury time strike made sure the Jambos got a share of the spoils.
Robbie Neilson made one change from the side that drew 0-0 at St Johnstone last week; Gavin Reilly replaced the suspended Juanma.
A typically tasty opening exchange saw a few hard tackles fly in, and Neil Alexander was the first ‘keeper to be called into action after five minutes. Ciftci was slipped in 18-yards out but his low, angled shot was blocked by Alexander and then gathered at the second attempt.
Two minutes later he was called into action again after Hearts gave away possession deep inside the home half, though Tom Rogic could only float an effort into the Jambos’ no. 1’s arms from outside the box.
The Jambos started to come into the game more as it went on, but again it was Alexander who was the busier of the two goalkeepers. A 17th minute corner found Jozo Simunovic at the back door but his head flashed across the face of the six-yard box and into the arms of Alexander.
Nicholson sparked Hearts into life in the 20th minute, playing a one-two with Morgaro Gomis before darting forward and unleashing a 25-yard drive over the bar.
33 minutes in and Hearts almost broke the deadlock. Arnaud Djoum’s ball across the face of goal found the outstretched leg of Prince Buaben, but Craig Gordon was at full stretch to claw the ball around the post.
Minutes later Gordon was on hand again to save Celtic. Reilly brilliantly turned substitute Efe Ambrose and ran in on goal, pulling the trigger at the edge of the box, only to see Gordon touch the ball wide.
By this point Reilly was on fire, and in the 40th minute he outmuscled two Celtic players to hit the byline before sending over an inviting ball to the back post, which the oncoming Nicholson could only slide in on and knock wide.
For all Hearts’ pressure they were carved open a minute later as Celtic took the lead. A ball down the middle found Ciftci, who ran into the box and rolled low beyond Alexander and into the corner of the net.
A moment of magic got Hearts back on level terms in time added on. Buaben’s swinging cross into the back post was met by Nicholson, who volleyed perfectly into the opposite corner of the net. 1-1!
Celtic came flying out the traps at the start of the second half when Ciftci robbed Blazej Augustyn at the byline before cutting inside and drilling low at Alexander, who pulled off a great block to deny the Turk his second goal of the game.
The visitors had a half-chance after 58 minutes. Mikael Lustig tore down the left and crossed into the middle for Callum McGregor to half-volley, but his snapshot was well wide of the target.
Celtic again got their noses in front, this time in the 70th minute. After pressure down the left the ball broke to Rogic at the edge of the box and he slammed home a spectacular effort, high into the roof of the net.
Substitute Billy King looked lively, and he played a neat one-two with Callum Paterson before cutting into the box, but he could only drag his effort wide.
When all looked lost, Sow popped up with another belter. In time added on, Buaben touched a free-kick in his direction and the big Swede leathered the ball from 25-yards out into the top corner of the net.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Augustyn, Rossi, Oshaniwa, Buaben, Gomis (Zanatta, 86'), Djoum (Pallardo, 61'), Nicholson, Reilly (King, 80'), Sow. Subs: Hamilton, Ozturk, McGhee, Swanson.
Celtic: Gordon, Simunovic, Bitton, Ciftci, Armstrong (Forrest, 20'), Rogic (Mackay-Steven, 77'), Boyata (Ambrose, 32'), Lustig, Johansen, McGregor, Tierney. Subs: Bailly, Izaguirre, Allan, Cole.
Ref: Steven McLean
Top man: Sam Nicholson