Hearts overpowered by an inspired CelticFrom Hearts News at Celtic Park
To have taken anything from this chilly Wednesday evening encounter with Celtic it would have taken a mammoth effort from a Hearts side low on confidence to spoil Robbie Keane's first game at Celtic Park. As expected the renewed vigour in the home side and the boosted atmosphere from the Parkhead faithful proved too much for the men in the maroon as they were overrun by a terrific second half performance from Celtic who ran out 2-0 winners.
Goals from Glenn Loovens and Marc-Antoine Fortune within 60 seconds of each other at the start of the half was enough for the home side to collect all three points They would have added much more on the night but found it very difficult to squeeze the ball past a terrific Marian Kello.
Jim Jefferies made four changes to the team that lost in the CIS Cup Semi-Final last week at Fir Park. Making their debuts for the club were both new signing Ryan Stevenson, who slotted into a midfield three with Ian Black and Michael Stewart, and young prospect Paul Mulrooney starting wide on the right. Up front Christian Nade took up a familiar role as the lone forward as Jeffries went for a more cautious approach to try and stifle the attacking threat of Celtic who went for a very adventurous formation with Keane, Fortune and Kamara all in the starting line-up.
All eyes were on the Irishman on loan from Spurs and it was Keane who had the game's first chance when he beat the Hearts' offside trap but his shot from a tight angle could only find the side netting.
On 25 minutes Celtic were denied taking the lead by a terrific double save by Marian Kello. First the keeper' did well save Scott Brown's effort after the midfielder was played in behind a static Hearts defence. The former Hibs player tried to chip Kello as he went to ground but the keeper managed to push it away from goal and then did brilliantly to tip the ball over the bar from Fortune's follow up.
Two minutes later Kello denied Celtic yet again as he got down low to save from Robbie Keane after the striker was the latest player allowed to run through one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Hearts then had their first chance of the game on 33 minutes as Michael Stewart volleyed a pass out to the right for an unmarked Paul Mulrooney inside the penalty area. The youngster opted for a first time shot but his looping effort dropped wide of the goal and a scrambling Artur Boruc.
Four minutes into the second half Celtic took the lead after some slack Hearts defending from a corner on the right. The cross arrived straight to Glenn Loovens eight yards out and the defender was allowed to control the ball before firing past Kello to put the home side 1-0 up.
A minute later Celtic extended their advantage with Marc-Antoine Fortune being played through on the right hand side before slipping the ball past the onrushing Marian Kello for a 2-0 lead.
Robbie Keane almost added a third on 58 minutes when he received the ball in the penalty area, skipped past his marker and lifted the ball over Kello but wide of the far post.
Ten minutes later the striker had another excellent chance after being slipped in by Kamara as Celtic broke on the counter attack following a Hearts corner. The striker struggled to get the ball under control before firing his shot straight at Kello.
Almost immediately afterwards Keane again found Kello blocking his route to a home debut goal as the keeper was in the right place to handle Keane's header following a cross from the right.
With seven minutes remaining Celtic's number seven had his seventh chance of the game. Keane received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, moved inside before cutting back inside Kucharski and scooping the ball over the crossbar.
If that last paragraph appeared as a knock at Keane it wasn't meant to be as he proved to be a constant threat to the Hearts defence from start to finish and would have thoroughly deserved a goal for his efforts.
As for Hearts the signs of improvement continue in 'baby-step' fashion under Jeffries but the squad still has a lot to do before the new manager will be satisfied with the performance of the group of players at his disposal.
Celtic: Boruc; Caddis, Loovens (Rogne 61), Thompson, Braafheid (Ki 76); Brown, N'Guemo, McGeady; Fortune (Samaras 80), Keane, Kamara. Subs not used: Zaluska, Rasmussen, Crosas, McGinn. Booked: McGeady
Hearts: Kello; Jonsson, Kucharski, Zaliukas, Wallace; Stevenson, Stewart, Black; Mulrooney (Suso 73), Nade (Glen 73), Obua. Subs not used: Balogh, Witteveen, R Wallace, Balatoni, Smith. Booked: Mulrooney, Zaliukas, Jonsson, Black
Referee: Brian Winter
Top man: Marian Kello