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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Ronnie Esplin auth-> Craig Thomson
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Celtic 0 Hearts 0

By Ronnie Esplin, PA Sport

Celtic surrendered their Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League title to Old Firm rivals Rangers after drawing 0-0 against Hearts at Parkhead.

The Ibrox side's win over Dundee United at Tannadice ultimately rendered the Hoops' last game of the season meaningless.

However, the Parkhead side could not finish the campaign in style and forced their fans to sit through another afternoon of turmoil.

Striker Scott McDonald missed the best chance in the first half when he blasted wide from close range with Aiden McGeady and Shunsuke Nakamura drawing good saves from Jambos keeper Marian Kello.

The spotlight will fall on manager Gordon Strachan again and speculation about his future will intensify over the summer if not over the next few days.

A large section of the Hoops' support have refused to take Strachan to their heart during his four years in charge.

This season brought more criticism of Celtic's playing style and Strachan's team selections, although the former Coventry and Southampton boss could argue an injection of quality in to his squad in January, when they had the edge over Rangers, may have made the difference.

Only Willo Flood from Dundee United was added to the first team squad and he barely featured in the run-in.

A high-profile dressing room bust-up with Aiden McGeady, which led to a two-week suspension and club fine for the Republic of Ireland star, was a test of character for Strachan.

The continuous off-field and on-field antics of controversial keeper Artur Boruc, as well as front page appearances from other Celtic players, also tested the mettle of the Parkhead boss.

By and large, he put out those fires successfully.

However, there is no margin for error in Scotland and losing the title to Rangers may be the final straw.

Going into the game against Hearts, Celtic needed to win but they also needed the Ibrox men to slip up at Tannadice.

The home side bossed the first half but not for the first time this season they were thwarted by poor finishing, although a fine display from Kello also proved significant.

With less than four minutes played the first opportunity of the afternoon arose for the home side when Hearts skipper Robbie Neilson fouled Shunsuke Nakamura 20 yards from goal.

However, the Japan international drew a decent save but no more from Kello with his free-kick which tried to sneak in at the near post.

Then, in the seventh minute, McDonald was sent free down the right channel by Andreas Hinkel but the Celtic striker's right-footed volley from just inside the box lacked the conviction to beat Kello.

Celtic continued to press and they missed a great chance in the 21st minute when Kello spilled Scott Brown's drive from the edge of the box with McDonald firing high over the bar from eight yards out.

A false alarm from Tannadice seconds later had the Celtic fans cheering from the rafters but while that soon subsided, the home side's dominance continued.

In the 28th minute McGeady came alive for the first time in the game when he fired in a drive from the edge of the box which Kello tipped onto the post and behind for a corner.

That set-piece came to nothing but the pressure slowly intensified.

Following another Nakamura corner, Paul Hartley had an effort from outside the box which had Kello diving to his right to gather.

Seconds later, after good work from McGeady to set up Nakamura, Kello had a great save from the Japanese midfielder's side-footed shot which was heading for the corner.

In the final seconds of the half though, Celtic defender Gary Caldwell had to clear Calum Elliot's close-range shot off the line as Hearts pressed with purpose for the first time.

When news filtered through that Rangers had gone into a 3-0 lead soon after the break the home supporters slowly began to trickle out.

As the Hearts fans taunted their Celtic counterparts, McGeady slipped the ball the wrong side of the post from 10 yards after being set up by Darren O'Dea.

Seconds later, with the tempo having noticeably dipped, a great tackle by Jambos defender Eggert Jonsson prevented McDonald getting a shot away from close range.

Still struggling for the breakthrough, Hoops boss Gordon Strachan replaced McDonald with Shaun Maloney.

In the 72nd minute, as Celtic Park emptied further, Kello had another good save from Brown, before Maloney headed a McGeady cross wide of the far post.

The home side grew increasingly despondent as the game neared its conclusion and when referee Craig Thomson blew his final whistle, it was heard by a half-empty Celtic Park.


Celtic Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, Loovens, O'Dea, Nakamura,Scott Brown (Flood 82), Hartley, McGeady,McDonald (Maloney 69), Samaras (Vennegoor of Hesselink 46).

Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Crosas, Conroy, Naylor.

Hearts Kello, Neilson, Karipidis, Mrowiec, Lee Wallace,Jonsson, Michael Stewart, Zaliukas (Johnny Stewart 80), Obua,Elliot (Nade 61), Templeton (Novikovas 51).

Subs Not Used: Balogh, Tullberg, Thomson, Park.

Booked: Mrowiec.

Att: 59,685

Ref: C Thomson (Scotland).

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