3 talking points as Celtic thrive then survive against Hearts thanks to Reo Hatate’s stunner


Title hopefuls Celtic defeated Hearts thanks to a Reo Hatate stunner but were forced to survive a late storm from the hosts en route to a vital three points.

The Japanese international scored a pearler from distance in the first half before Giorgos Giakoumakis flicked home ahead of John Souttar to make it 2-0.

The first half was flawless but it was nerve-shredding for the visitors after Liam Boyce scored just after the hour, before the same player missed from the penalty spot.

Celtic survived to keep pace with Rangers atop the Premiership in the process.

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was bullish before kick-off and his pre-match confidence surges appeared well placed when Barrie McKay started fast and his curling effort from the edge of the box was only just over the bar.

And the hosts were further boosted when they broke quickly but were McKay was thwarted a shot on goal thanks to jet-heeled Josip Juranovic’s ability to squeeze out the Jambos star.

A game of pinball ensued on a blustery night but new Celtic arrival Matt O’Riley was quick to flash glimpses of his obvious potential.

But it was team-mate Jota who took the game into his own hands and and he tested Craig Gordon twice in two minutes but the Scotland keeper was up to the task.

Hearts’ early rope-a-dope was in danger of drifting into an overly defensive approach and their inability to keep Celtic off them finally cost them.

But it was no run of the mill goal that changed the game and Hatate’s searing effort was only missing a scorch mark on Gordon’s net as the long-ranger prove too hot to handle.

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The visitors were swaggering midway through the first half and the home supporters could sense more woe was incoming.

And it duly arrived as Giakoumakis, full of running and endeavour, flicked in at the near post after Hatate’s vision helped release O’Riley to tee up the Greek forward who made it two goals in two games.

The former VVV-Venlo forward has been cursed at times but he got the benefit of a razor-close offside call.

If Hearts were hoping for some respite, it quickly became apparent that Celtic weren’t in retreat mode and Hatate was cursing his luck as John Souttar blocked a goalbound effort from the Japanese midfielder.

But the home side rallied and many within Tynecastle thought Cammy Devlin found the back of the net but Joe Hart was able to breathe as it ended up just wide.

Celtic were quick to reassert their dominance with Josip Juranovic’s rasper flipped over the bar by Gordon before O’Riley’s tepid through ball should have been a shot on goal.

But Hearts’ ability to hang about was rewarded as Boyce tucked under Hart after McKay’s inch-perfect pass, though it appeared the Northern Irishman was ahead of Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Liam Boyce is dejected after missing a penalty

That goal jolted the home support and forced Celtic into hasty clearances and poor decision making and Carl Starfelt did brilliantly to hook away a cross that appeared destined for debutant Ellis Simms’ boot.

Just like before Celtic’s second strike, it felt another Hearts goal was coming and a penalty was awarded after Bitton was adjudged to have handled following Peter Haring’s header.

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But Boyce’s spot kick cracked the inside of the post before trundling across the goal line and away to safety much to the disbelief of the Northern Ireland international.

That dulled some of the Hearts bite but Celtic were unable to get out and were reduced to launching scattergun counter-attacks for the closing stages.

The small section of away support sighed in unison at the six minutes added but Celtic managed to keep Hearts at bay and stay four points behind Rangers ahead of their looming showdown.

Celtic thrive then survive

Not Kyogo and Rogic? No problem for the first 60 minutes but it became an adventure after that. Hearts were off kilter and they couldn’t handle the title challengers but the race to the finish line was full of some nerve-shredding twists and turns for their supporters.

Jota was back to his brilliant best and his side’s dominance ended pretty much after he was replaced by Liel Abada. But these three points will feel extra precious considering the penalty misses and the rearguard action that didn’t appear likely a golden hour at Tynecastle.

It wasn’t pretty but these truly are the type of games you have to see out if you want to come out on top at the end of the season.

Hearts must come again

A pair of bruising defeats on home turf against the two teams ahead of the table in the past two months. Nothing to cry about but it’s becoming clear Neilson’s currently sit in their own special spot – clearly better than the other eight sides but not on the level of Celtic and Rangers.

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And they can’t be expected to be due to the financial gulf but there’s plenty to like about a side who has a crystal clear identity even if it doesn’t quite come off every time against Glasgow’s big two.

Heart of Midlothian’s Liam Boyce misses from the penalty spot

Their rolling finish bodes well and it is easy to forget this is their first season back in the top flight when you consider the strides made under Neilson’ second stint in charge.

A moment for Devin

Supporters of the beautiful game often take flak but the overwhelming majority are excellent representatives of the clubs they follow, it’s the same on the pitch, with players forging a bond with the club they turn out for. And a reminder that the sport a nation obsesses about is merely a game arrived in the 13th minute as a touching tribute filled the night sky for 13-year-old Devin Gordon.

Nir Bitton and Craig Gordon
Nir Bitton and Craig Gordon

There was a rapturous applause from all four stands for a young man who lost his life in the most heartbreaking of circumstances. It’s a game and real life tragedies such as the untimely passing of the young Jambos serves as a prompt reminder of the fragility of life.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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