Ryan Christie inspires Celtic to League Cup win over Hearts
Brendan Rodgers’ side on course for another domestic trophy after Murrayfield semi win
Ryan Christie celebrates scoring Celtic’s third against Hearts. Photograph: Graham Stuart/PA
Hearts 0 Celtic 3
Celtic’s relentless approach to domestic competition under Brendan Rodgers shows no sign of wilting. They will take their place in the first major final of the Scottish season, for the League Cup, after a powerful second-half display proved enough to see off Hearts.
That Rodgers has won every trophy available in Scotland since being appointed in 2016 had ensured a prioritising of this tie over the Europa League defeat in Leipzig on Thursday.
Whilst Celtic continue to toil in Europe, they remain untouchable at home – a matter endorsed by recent, much-improved form.
A half-time substitution was key to Celtic’s deserved success here. Ryan Christie, who has been afforded only a bit-part role under Rodgers, stepped into midfield to replace Olivier Ntcham. Within half an hour, Christie had played a part in three goals.
After a first half notable only for the departure of Hearts’ captain and top scorer, Steven Naismith, because of injury, Celtic broke the deadlock from the penalty spot. Christie needed little encouragement to tumble under a challenge from Oliver Bozanic, with Scott Sinclair stepping forward to score from 12 yards. The taut, scrappy nature of proceedings meant the first goal was always likely to prove crucial.
Celtic’s second proved a disaster for the Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal. The Czech should have encountered little problem when dealing with a long-range attempt from Christie but instead badly spilled the effort. The ball may have been over the line before Zlamal attempted to atone for his error by clawing it away. James Forrest was not hanging around for an inquest, the winger coolly slotting home the rebound.
Zlamal at least had little chance with number three. Christie strode forward to collect a loose ball, 22 yards out and the former Inverness player duly delivered a wonderful shot, high to the Hearts goalkeeper’s right. Only a stunning Zlamal save prevented Forrest from adding a Celtic fourth.