Celtic take their revenge on Hearts with first-half pounding
Brendan Rodgers’s side go 14 points clear of Rangers at the top in Scotland
Dedryck Boyata scores Celtic’s second goal during the Scottish Premiership match against Hearts at Celtic Park. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Celtic 3 Hearts 1
Celtic avenged their only domestic defeat under boss Brendan Rodgers with a convincing 3-1 Premiership win over Hearts at Parkhead.
The Edinburgh side had ended the Hoops’ 69-game unbeaten run with a 4-0 home win in December and they incurred the wrath of the champions on their trip to Glasgow.
Goals from Odsonne Edouard, Dedryck Boyata and Moussa Dembele had the league leaders in command at the interval.
Jambos striker Kyle Lafferty, back after a three-game suspension, reduced the deficit with a drive in the 67th minute but there was no real prospect of a comeback as Celtic moved 14 points clear of second-placed Rangers.
Neither side had lost since their previous meeting in Edinburgh but it was a powerful first-half performance by the home side who showed they had the squad to cope with the loss of goalkeeper Craig Gordon and striker Leigh Griffiths to injury at the weekend.
Dorus de Vries took over between the sticks and Dembele claimed the main striker’s role, supported from the left by Edouard, with Eboue Kouassi in midfield.
It took only until the third minute for Celtic to make their mark. Edouard took a Dembele lay-off in the middle of the park and raced clear of the chasing Hearts rearguard and knocked it high past goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin from eight yards.
It was a poor goal to lose from the visitors’ point of view and as they wobbled under Hoops pressure, left back Kieran Tierney’s drive from the edge of the box escaped the post by inches.
While Celtic retained the upper hand, Parkhead skipper Scott Brown was booked in the 10th minute by referee Craig Thomson for a hefty challenge on midfielder Arnaud Djoum before Lafferty picked up a yellow for a foul on Tierney.
Dembele then blasted a shot straight at McLaughlin after a ricochet landed at his feet 16 yards from goal but Boyata was more composed in the 25th minute when he was set up by the French under-21 striker, slipping the ball under McLaughlin from close range.
Celtic’s third goal in the 36th minute came courtesy of more good flank play by Tierney, cutting on to his right foot at the bye line and crossing for Dembele to flick past McLaughlin at the near post.
Hearts midfielder Harry Cochrane was then replaced by Prince Buaben after appearing to pick up a shoulder injury in a tackle with Brown moments earlier with Danny Amankwaa replacing Ross Callachan at the interval.
There was no let-up from the champions and Edouard should have made it four when he was sent clear by fellow Frenchman Dembele but his shot was straight at McLaughlin.
Charly Musonda, the 21-year-old Chelsea attacker who signed an 18-month loan deal with Celtic on Monday, was given a great reception in the 62nd minute when he took over from James Forrest.
However, the home fans were stunned when Lafferty curled a shot past De Vries from the edge of the box.
But Celtic took back control. Midfielder Olivier Ntcham skimmed the far post with a drive before hitting McLaughlin with another effort in added time as the home side cruised to the final whistle in comfort.