Celtic survive second-half scare to win at Hearts and keep pressure on Rangers



Posted Thursday, January 27, 2022 by PA

Celtic survive second-half scare to win at Hearts and keep pressure on Rangers

Celtic survived a strong second-half fightback from Hearts to grind out a 2-1 victory in a pulsating cinch Premiership encounter at Tynecastle.

Ange Postecoglou’s side looked in full control at the break after goals from Reo Hatate and Georgios Giakoumakis.

But Liam Boyce pulled one back after the break and the Northern Irish striker then missed a penalty as the hosts piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser.

The victory kept Celtic within four points of leaders Rangers ahead of next Wednesday’s Glasgow derby.

Ibrox-bound defender John Souttar returned to Hearts’ starting line-up after missing the Scottish Cup victory over Auchinleck, while Josh Ginnelly was also back in the side.

Nathaniel Atkinson and Andy Halliday dropped to the bench, where they were joined by new striker Ellis Simms, who arrived on loan from Everton shortly before kick-off.

Celtic gave a debut to former MK Dons midfielder Matt O’Riley, but captain Callum McGregor and Yosuke Ideguchi missed out with injuries sustained in the cup win over Alloa at the weekend, while Tom Rogic was away on international duty with Australia.

Hearts threatened in the opening minute when Boyce seized on a loose pass from Hatate and laid the ball off to Barrie McKay who curled an effort just over the bar from the edge of the box.

The game was temporarily paused in the 13th minute as the whole stadium, including both sets of players, joined in a minute’s applause in memory of 13-year-old Hearts fan Devin Gordon who died last week.

Celtic, who had enjoyed the majority of possession in the early stages, had their first notable shots at goal in the 16th minute when Jota tested Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon with a couple of low strikes from inside the box in quick succession.

Hearts were forced into a change in the 22nd minute when Michael Smith limped off to be replaced by Atkinson.

And the substitute was at fault just five minutes after entering the field when his pass into a crowded area was intercepted by Nir Bitton and Hatate surged forward on to the loose ball before firing a superb strike past Gordon from almost 30 yards.

Celtic doubled their lead in the 35th minute when Giakoumakis clipped home a cross from O’Riley at the near post, although replays suggested the Greek striker was marginally offside.

Hearts made a second change at half-time when Simms was introduced for his debut in place of Ginnelly.

The hosts pulled one back in the 62nd minute when Boyce ran on to a pass from McKay and slotted through the legs of Joe Hart from inside the box, although once again replays showed the goalscorer was offside.

The hosts had a great chance to equalise 10 minutes later when they were awarded a penalty after Bitton handled in the box but Boyce struck the inside of the post with his spot-kick.

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