Celtic 0-2 Hearts: Visitors stun champions & end 14-year wait for Celtic Park win

16 December 2023 0 By Total Football News
Stephen Kingsley scores a free-kick for Hearts against CelticFree-kick specialist Stephen Kingsley doubled Hearts’ lead

Hearts got the win they “deserved” at Celtic, said head coach Steven Naismith, as his side ended a long wait for victory at the home of the Scottish Premiership leaders.

Naismith’s side stunned the champions to secure a first away win over Celtic since 2009 and consign them to successive league defeats.

Unmarked Lawrence Shankland headed Hearts in front from a corner and Stephen Kingsley’s stunning free-kick doubled the lead before half-time.

Luis Palma had Celtic’s best opportunity but was foiled by Kingsley’s last-ditch block.

Leaders Celtic remain five points above Rangers, who have two games in hand, while Hearts, in third, move within 11 points of the Ibrox team.

“It’s a big win because of the record,” said Naismith. “We showed today that we’ve got belief. It’s just another step in what we hope will be a successful run for the club.”

Brendan Rodgers’ side had taken heavy criticism following last Sunday’s loss at Kilmarnock but reversed that narrative with a stirring midweek Champions League group stage win over Feyenoord – the club’s first at home in 10 years.

An early drive from Greg Taylor forced a save from Zander Clark but it was Hearts, beaten in their previous two games, who looked the more comfortable and silenced the home crowd with Shankland’s early goal.

Cameron Carter-Vickers had been alert to prevent Kingsley’s cross finding Alan Forrest but then Celtic switched off, with Shankland waiting at the back post to convert Jorge Grant’s delivery from the left.

And, after Carter-Vickers had fouled Nathaniel Atkinson, set-piece specialist Kingsley lifted a superb shot over the wall and past Joe Hart. Celtic had been upset with the award of the free-kick.

Celtic were rattled and David Turnbull’s powerful effort brought out the best in Clark, then Kingsley came to the visitors’ rescue. Kyogo Furuhashi’s cross deflected into Luis Palma’s possession and his finish was blocked by the Hearts defender almost on the line.

Rodgers took action at the break with Daizen Maeda and Oh Hyeon-gyu added to attack in place of Mikey Johnston and David Turnbull while Anthony Ralston took over from right-back Alistair Johnston.

Palma almost found Kyogo with a lofted ball from deep, the Japan striker just unable to make contact for a tap-in.

That should have jolted Celtic into action but Clark was largely untroubled for the remainder of the match, due in no small part to Hearts’ disciplined display.

A late header from Kyogo was off target and Maeda could not get a toe to Oh’s low ball across as home fans headed for the exits.

Player of the match – Lawrence Shankland

Lawrence Shankland scores for Hearts against CelticThe striker’s performance was not just a scoring one, he led the line superbly and further justified Hearts’ stance that it would take an “exceptional” bid to consider his sale in January

Statement win for Hearts – analysis

It was a statement win for Hearts and Naismith after an up and down season so far. He spoke pre-match about “doing most things right” with the ball and without it and that’s exactly what his players delivered.

Among the aspects Hearts got right was having a spare man in defence to block low crosses and being first to the 50-50 challenges.

Celtic will lament both goals, naturally, but the finishing of Shankland and Kingsley was not only on point but well timed given Scotland manager Steve Clarke’s presence in the stands, though Kingsley did not return for the second half.

Rodgers has remarked on an inconsistency in Celtic’s performances, sometimes starting poorly and improving; other times dominating a first half then fading in the second.

This display was consistently poor throughout. Where Hearts had made the right choices in key moments, Celtic too often took the wrong option with passes, crosses and emphases.

Kyogo cut a frustrating figure in attack, Matt O’Riley seemed dragged into an unfamiliar wide right role and the returning Maeda possibly lacked the match fitness to make an impact from the bench.

The narrative will return to one of Celtic stuttering and misfiring. How they respond in the next two-and-a-half weeks before the winter break and the re-opening of the transfer window could define their season.

What they said

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “It’s an apology to the support. I don’t think I’ve ever had to do that in all my time here. The performance today was nowhere near the level of what is expected of a Celtic player and a Celtic team.

“We lacked any desire in our defending, we lacked that drive when we had the ball and that intensity. We could’ve played all day and not have scored. We got outdone by a corner, where we’ve been naively blocked, and then from a free-kick, where we were so passive in the build-up to them getting the free-kick. It’s a really sore one for the fans.”

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith: “We needed a structure to work from, we needed to be disciplined, we needed to be composed on the ball and say, ‘no, we’re good enough to play against your press’ because I would argue Celtic have got the best press in the league.

“And then we’ve got to have the composure in the right moments. We’ve shown every bit of that, which is pleasing.”

Celtic host Livingston next Saturday, Hearts are at home to St Mirren (both 15:00 GMT).

Second Half ends, Celtic 0, Heart of Midlothian 2.