Highlights: Celtic 5-0 Hearts
Celtic took a significant step towards a ninth title in a row after thumping Hearts to move 10 points clear in the Scottish Premiership.
Neil Lennon’s side stretched their winning run since the winter break to eight – and 17 in 18 league games – while Rangers lost at Kilmarnock.
Olivier Ntcham opened the scoring, and that lead was doubled seconds after the break by Christopher Jullien’s header.
Goals by Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and Jozo Simunovic added further gloss.
Rangers have played one game fewer but now find themselves further behind than at any other stage this season.
Hearts carved out some good chances themselves, but Fraser Forster denied Jamie Walker on multiple occasions to maintain his clean sheet, and substitute Marcel Langer was shown a late red card.
Daniel Stendel’s side remain one point behind Hamilton Academical at the foot of the table, and host the Lanarkshire club on Saturday.
Celtic ruthlessly charging to title
In the end, this was an annihilation and the scoreline could have been much higher.
Celtic are ruthlessly charging to the league title and their supporters know it. They were delirious as full-time approached. It isn’t over but increasingly looks odds-on.
The breakthrough in this one took a little time. Stendel’s approach could be either interpreted as brave or reckless, but seemed to give Celtic the chance to cut the visitors open, with James Forrest handed numerous chances to punish them.
He didn’t, but the opener did come when Odsonne Edouard fired a shot at Joel Pereira, which the goalkeeper simply parried to Ntcham rather than divert wide. The midfielder finished calmly to reinforce his recent impact.
You feared the worst for Hearts but they began to create chances with Celtic increasingly sloppy and the formation switch looking effective.
They ought to have been punished though before half-time when Edouard slipped Leigh Griffiths in, but the striker misfired and hit the side netting. It mattered not on what looks like a decisive occasion.
Things absolutely imploded for Hearts immediately after the break. Julien rose unchallenged at a corner to power a header home, with Pereira stranded on his line.
The French defender is an imposing figure, who is making a positive contribution at both ends of the pitch for the champions. The centre-back they have been crying out for.
Another corner nearly caught Hearts again with both Simunovic then Scott Brown striking the same post.
The third arrived when McGregor drove away from a Hearts midfield that was posted missing. He regained the ball from Greg Taylor and fired home into the corner.
Celtic’s strength in depth was cemented when Christie came off the bench and bagged his 19th of the season from a tight angle, before Simunovic added another.
On a night of misery for Hearts, substitute Langer was ordered off after a reckless lunge, with the despair for the Tynecastle side in contrast to the delirium around Celtic Park.
Lennon’s side look utterly relentless. The games are ticking down and the goals are flowing ominously. They will take some stopping on this form. The Celtic crowd certainly think so.
Man of the match – Callum McGregor
There are so many Celtic players delivering consistently in this magnificent run.
Edouard is often unplayable and links so well with Griffiths. McGregor is back in the goals, and as is Ntcham. Forrest chips in, and as does Jullien from the back.
The mentality, quality and application is evident across the squad as they chalk up win after win.
You could argue numerous cases but McGregor stood out in this game. His contribution is often overlooked but he is a top operator who offers so much, capped with another goal in what turned into a rout.
‘Relentlessness and hunger’ – reaction
‘Title race could flip at any time’ – Celtic boss Lennon
Celtic manager Neil Lennon: “I couldn’t have asked for any more from the team. To beat a team as good as Hearts with an emphatic scoreline like that was very pleasing. There was a relentlessness and a hunger about them in the second half.
“It gives us a little bit more of a margin to lean on [after Rangers losing]. It’s a long way to go and it could flip at any time. We’re not counting our chickens and getting carried away. I’m just delighted with the performances being put in at the moment.”
Hearts manager Daniel Stendel: “We deserved to lose 5-0. We played without confidence. In our situation we have no time to think about this – Saturday is a really important game for us [against Hamilton].
“It was a hard night for us but we can only look forward. We hoped to take maybe a point here but with that performance we had no chance. We will try and stay together. That is our only chance.”
Hearts ‘deserved to lose 5-0’ against Celtic – Stendel
- Match Stats
- Live Text
- 5SimunovicBooked at 27mins
- 49ForrestSubstituted forElyounoussiat 72'minutes
- 21NtchamSubstituted forRogicat 78'minutes
- 9GriffithsSubstituted forChristieat 64'minutes
- 23Castro Pereira
- 8ClareSubstituted forLangerat 45'minutesBooked at 86mins
- 26HalkettBooked at 76mins
- 2SmithSubstituted forMooreat 70'minutes
- 21McDonaldSubstituted forWashingtonat 29'minutes
- 10WalkerBooked at 32mins
Home TeamCelticAway TeamHeartsPossessionHome54%Away46%ShotsHome22Away5Shots on TargetHome12Away2CornersHome10Away6FoulsHome17Away16
Match ends, Celtic 5, Heart of Midlothian 0.