Celtic 4 - 0 Hearts

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Post by nirvana on Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:19 pm

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Celtic 4 - 0 Hearts

James Forrest celebrates his goal for Celtic
Forrest scored the opening goal before being forced off through injury

Anthony Stokes scored twice as Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic halted the Hearts title bandwagon in its tracks with a comfortable victory.

James Forrest's superb 16-yard drive put the home side in control after just seven minutes of an impressive display.

Stokes curled in a delightful free-kick eight minutes after the break.

The Irishman broke clear to score after 71 minutes and Paddy McCourt added a close-range finish to firmly end third-top Hearts' 11-match unbeaten run.

Celtic themselves have now stretched their own unbeaten run to 11 games and moved 10 points clear of the Edinburgh side.

Hearts had arrived on a high after Saturday's 1-0 win over reigning champions Rangers but now find themselves again five points adrift of the second-top side after failing to live up to their pre-match billing.

The talk before the game was how Celtic's defence would cope with just one fit centre-half, Thomas Rogne, available to face in-form visitors.

However, he and Charlie Mulgrew, normally a left-back, were hardly troubled throughout a match in which Celtic immediately established control, troubling the visitors with their pace and precision.

And Forrest, who returned to the side following suspension along with Joe Ledley, gave them the lead after a clever flick by striker Gary Hooper was picked up by Scott Brown.

The Celtic captain drove forward before releasing the winger on the left-hand side of the box.

Forest appeared to take Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello by surprise when he lashed in an unstoppable shot from 16 yards.

The winger's joy turned to despair when he was forced off after 24 minutes with what looked like a hamstring injury, being replaced with Paddy McCourt, who had originally been dropped to the bench along with Niall McGinn.
Anthony Stokes celebrates with Beram Kayal
Stokes (left) scored Celtic's second and third goals against Hearts

Hearts manager Jim Jefferies had started with the more combative Ian Black instead of Ruben Palazuelos, but the visitors were second best in midfield.

When they were at last seen as an attacking force, Stephen Elliott's cross-cum-shot flew dangerously across the face of goal, with Ryan Stevenson just failing to provide a scoring touch.

Good control from Stokes inside the Hearts penalty box set up Ledley to fire wide after a period of intense Celtic pressure.

By now, it was becoming an increasingly stormy affair, with Hearts' Rudi Skacel particularly testing referee Euan Norris's patience despite having already been booked.

The winger also squandered Hearts' best chance of the half on the break when he shot straight at goalkeeper Fraser Forster, while Ledley fired just wide at the other end.

Skacel was replaced with Palazuelos at half-time, manager Jefferies deciding it was better to take the Czech off before he was sent off.

Hearts came out for the second half hoping to replicate Saturday's performance, when they defeated Rangers despite the reigning champions having created a series of chances in the opening 45 minutes.

However, they immediately went close to going further behind when Hooper broke clear and goalkeeper Kello did well to block clear the striker's drive.

Celtic's second was not long in coming, with Stokes curling a free-kick past the goalkeeper from 25 yards.

With the match becoming increasingly heated, Hearts' Black and Marius Zaliukas, plus Celtic's Brown and Stokes, took the number of bookings to seven following a midfield melee.

Hearts were unable to turn that passion into creative football and they should have gone further behind when Hooper fired over from close range.

Stokes grabbed his second when Zaliukas failed to gather a Ledley through ball and, when Hooper stumbled, his strike partner was on hand to score.

McCourt completed the scoring after 80 minutes when Brown set up Stokes and the winger added the finish.


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