Sunday, August 25, 2019
Celtic Park, Glasgow
(Berra 29, McGregor 54, Bayo 59)
CELTIC continued their impressive start to the new Premiership season with a dominant 3-1 win over Hearts at Paradise. Neil Lennon’s side continued their 100 per cent winning start in the league as they took their goal tally to 15 in three games.
Vakoun Bayo had a case for claiming his first goal in the Hoops but it was Christophe Berra who got the last touch to open the scoring. McGregor doubled Celtic’s lead early in the second half before Bayo and Craig Halkett challenged for the ball, which ended up in the back of the net. Conor Washington reduced the deficit for Hearts late on to make it 3-1.
Boli Bolingoli and McGregor created the first opportunity of the game in the seventh minute. A quick one-two on the edge of the penalty area opened up the Hearts’ defence and McGregor fired his right-footed shot across goal a yard wide of the far post.
Bayo’s first glimpse at goal came shortly afterwards when Kristoffer Ajer lifted a pass over the top for the Ivorian to run on to. He timed his run well but accidentally handled the ball when trying to control it with chest.
A well-organised Hearts side proved difficult to break down in the early stages but Celtic turned up the pressure midway through the first half and caused problems for Craig Levein’s defence.
Bayo made the two Hearts central defenders, Berra and Halkett, work hard with his movement off the ball and runs in behind, and the Ivorian’s hard work paid off just before the half-hour mark when he helped his side take the lead.
James Forrest played a looping cross into the six-yard box from out on the left which Bayo attacked. The Hoops striker was sandwiched between Berra and Halkett, and Berra ended up knocking the ball into his own net.
Kristoffer Ajer, playing out on the right again in place of the injured Hatem Abd Elhamed, showed a hunger to get forward, and the Norwegian nearly helped create a second goal for Celtic just before the break. He spotted Bayo’s run and reacted quickly with a quick pass in towards the back post, but Halkett again saved his side with another last ditch interception.
Callum McGregor put Celtic two ahead early in the second half with a characteristically stunning finish from 20 yards. The move began with Forrest cutting in from the left, the winger couldn’t find the space to shot and knocked it on to Christie who immediately rolled it into the path of McGregor. The Hoops midfielder had enough time to take a touch and beat Joel Pereira with a wonderful left-foot strike.
Celtic didn’t give Hearts a moment to find their feet before flooring them with a third goal. Bayo remained a constant thorn in the side of opposition defence and was again at the forefront of the move that led to the goal. He slide in to attack Ajer’s low cross in towards the near post, as did Halkett, and the final touch steered the ball beyond Pereira.
Neil Lennon freshened things up in attack, with Mikey Johnston coming on for Ntcham. That allowed Christie to move into a more central position, with Forrest switching to the right and Johnston on the left.
The changes immediately proved effective as Celtic hit Hearts on a counter-attack. Forrest tore down the right wing and chipped a cross towards the back post. Bayo rose high to head the ball downwards but it came back off the post and was scrambled clear.
Hearts were handed a lifeline late in the second half with a penalty. Uche Ikpeazu whipped a low pass into the Celtic box and the referee pointed to the spot after Scott Brown tackled Sean Clare in attempting to clear. Conor Washington’s spot-kick was saved by Fraser Forster, but the Hearts striker was first to react as he smashed in the rebound.
Forrest came close to adding his name to the score sheet but his right-footed strike from the edge of the area was saved.
CELTIC: Forster; Ajer (Ralston 87), Jullien, Bitton, Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor, Ntcham (Johnston 69), Forrest, Christie, Bayo (Griffiths 78)
Subs: Gordon, Hayes, Shved, Edouard
HEARTS: Pereira; Smith (Brandon 18), Berra, Clare, Washington, Mulraney (White 81), Whelan, Damour (Ikpeazu 70), Halkett, Irving, Hickey
Subs: Doyle, Bozanic, Dikamona, Henderson
Website Man of the Match: Vakoun Bayo