As with the teams meeting at the beginning of December, there was a 60 minute/30 minute split in this meeting at Tynecastle won 2-1 by Ange Postecoglou’s men in which the players transformed, both up as descending.
Elan and excellence – and Giorgos Giakoumakis a striker for all phases
The focus on Celtic’s missing players, captain Callum McGregor and boss Kyogo Furuhashi among them, overlooked those they could call on. In a totally dominant first half for the visitors, debutant Matt O’Riley, who provided the center for his team’s second, and Reo Hatate, in only his second game, were instrumental in Celtic leaving Hearts in the middle with their passes and movements. and exchanges. Jota, making his first start since Hearts’ last game, also wove his magic down the left, with captain Nir Bitton orchestrating as an anchor in midfield with aplomb, collecting passes to open up the home team. Hatate’s 30-yard bazooka in a game opener drew attention, but the importance of Giorgos Giakoumakis was crucial in both phases of the game.
All the action, it was a skillful move to make it 2-0, even if it was a bit offside. But, after a series of missed Celtic chances, as Hearts began to take control in the second period and Hatate, O’Riley and Jota understandably began to tire, Giakoumakis continued to make his presence known. Two goals in two starts in four days is proof that he will revel in serving inside the box. His boisterousness could be crucial for a Celtic team without much physicality. The Greek looks good.
It will surprise Robbie Neilson that his players couldn’t get close to Celtic for an hour, couldn’t catch any second balls and were largely supine. Barrie McKay showed brief glimpses, with Liam Boyce starving for service, but like Cammy Devlin, in addition to getting into altercations, Alex Cochrane, Josh Ginnelly and Peter Haring were posted as missing.
John Souttar and Craig Halkett also struggled initially, although the Rangers centre-back regained his composure, the Hearts’ cause didn’t help as Michael Smith missed early with injury and his replacement, Nathaniel Atkinson, coughed up possession leading to the Hatate Strike: That wasn’t one of Craig Gordon’s best moments.
The introduction of Gary Mackay-Steven and Ben Baningime gave the Tynecastle men the boost they were crying out for. He did not win a point due to a missed penalty by Boyce, hitting the post, which will give the Irishman nightmares.
Celta’s reviled defense rises
No one considers Celtic’s central defense to be a strength for Posteoglou’s men. It was a tense finish for them last night though, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt were immense as they fended off everyone. They dealt with aerial threats and cleared their lines with a conviction that the duo, and more particularly the Swede, are too often seen as lacking.
Hearts: Gordon 6; Smith 6 (Atkinson 22, 6), Souttar 7, Halkett 6 (Halliday 6), Kingsley 5; Ginnelly 5 (Simms 46 6), Devlin 6 (Baningime 7), Haring 5, Cochrane 5 (Mackay-Steven 58, 6); Boyce 6, McKay 6.
Celtic: Hart 6; Juranovic 6, Carter-Vickers 7, Starfelt 7, Taylor 6; Bitton 8; Forrest 6, O’Riley 7 (McCarthy 85, Hatate 7 (Soro 90 + 2, 4, Jota 7 (Abada 6)); Giakoumakis 8.