In a stunning display of pace, power and intensity, Hearts dismantled Celtic and, in doing so, shattered the champions’ 69 game unbeaten run in stunning fashion with a 4-0 victory at Tynecastle Park.
First half stunners from Harry Cochrane and Kyle Lafferty set the Jambos on their way, while a David Milinkovic double in the second half saw the side make it six games in a row without defeat since the emotional return to Gorgie, and in doing so, notching up the biggest win over Celtic for 122 years.
Beset by injuries and suspensions, Craig Levein made seven changes to the side that defeated Dundee at Tynecastle Park on Tuesday evening. Out went Anthony McDonald, Isma Goncalves, Lewis Moore, John Souttar, Rafal Grzelak, Arnaud Djoum and Cole Stockton.
Replacing them were Harry Cochrane, Don Cowie, Ross Callachan, Michael Smith, Jamie Brandon, David Milinkovic and Kyle Lafferty as Hearts faced the daunting prospect of coming against last season’s treble winners, still unbeaten in 69 domestic matches.
Hearts started the match brightly, and threatened on a number of early occasions, with Kyle Lafferty looking particularly dangerous. Lafferty had the first effort on goal when he spun outside the box but fired his left-footed shot over the bar. Cowie then nearly caused a mess in the Celtic box when he closed down Craig Gordon.
Ross Callachan then drove forward through midfield but his effort flew over, before Leigh Griffiths missed a good chance at the other end, slipping when set up by a counter from James Forrest. On 15 minutes, Christophe Berra headed just wide from a Cowie corner after Callachan had won it from a cross on the right.
Griffiths had another chance on 24 minutes, when Forrest was again the provider. The Scotland striker didn’t slip this time, but his right-footed effort was slammed into the side netting from around 14 yards out.
Hearts took a stunning and deserved lead on 26 minutes. More high pressure from the Jambos saw Celtic give the ball away down their left side, Connor Randall played a pass to Cowie who found Harry Cochrane. The youngster took a touch to compose himself and fired home a screamer from the edge of the area.
Moments later, Cowie and Cochrane combined once more to play in Milinkovic, who drew a top save from Gordon as he attempted to double the Jambos’ lead. They did make it two on 34 minutes, however. Milinkovic won the ball superbly in midfield, laid the ball through to Lafferty and the Northern Irish star hammered home a precise shot off the post and into the back of the net.
Astonishingly, the Jambos barrage continued after the break. Although Scott Sinclair had a shot blocked a minute after half-time, Hearts got their third goal on 47 minutes when Jozo Simunovic slipped, allowing Milinkovic to round Craig Gordon and tap the ball into the empty net.
Even at three goals down, Celtic can never be counted out and Jon McLaughlin had to look sharp to make a terrific save from Griffiths who had let fly from 25 yards, but a strong hand from the keeper saw the ball safely out for a corner. The expected Celtic onslaught never came, however, and the away side’s long ball game started to smell of desperation.
With the back four looking immensely solid, Hearts continued to push on the counter and that was how their fourth goal arrived. Ross Callachan burst through on goal from another fine pass from midfield, and although his touch was heavy, he rounded Gordon and was brought down.
Milinkovic immediately grabbed the ball and stepped up confidently to add a fourth goal of a quite unbelievable afternoon. The visitors did have a couple of sights of goal, with subs Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Eduoard both missing the target, but by then it was a lost cause for the Bhoys.
Despite the calls for fans to push for a fifth goal, Hearts played out time comfortably and Willie Collum blew the whistle in a 90 minutes in Gorgie that will go down in history as one of the finest games in club history.
Hearts: McLaughlin, Brandon, Berra, M.Smith, Randall, Cowie, Callachan (Grzelak, 85'), Cochrane, Buaben (McDonald, 66'), Milinkovic, Lafferty (Stockton, 72'). Subs: Hamilton, Hughes, Keena, Isma.
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney (Dembele, 46'), Forrest, Ntcham (Armstrong, 46'), Brown, McGregor (Edouard, 66'), Sinclair, Griffiths. Subs: de Vries, Ajer, Hayes, Kouassi.
Referee: Willie Collum