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BLISTERING CELTIC PILE ON THE PUNISHMENT AS ‘NATURAL ORDER’ IS RESTORED

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CELTIC 3  HEARTS 1

CELTIC were simply irresistible as they ripped Hearts to shreds in a breaktaking performance at Parkhead this evening. Craig Levein was left sitting in the dressing room at half time reflecting on a ‘natural order’ having been restored as an irresistible Celtic hammered his Hearts side comprehensively.

The Edinburgh minis became the only Scottish team to beat the Hoops last month since Brendan Rodgers’ arrival in May 2016.

There was never even the remotest of possibilities Levein’s men could repeat the feat as they were shredded by a Celtic team that started on the first foot and played with verve and vigour throughout.

Tynecastle keeper Jon McLaughlin was picking the ball out of his net inside three minutes as the home side sliced them open and finished with a fair amount of aplomb.

Moussa Dembele, looking lively and eager to get involved, raced away from Connor Randall before setting up his fellow-Frenchman Odsonne Edouard.

The on-loan Paris Saint-German youngster strode forward before unleashing an unstoppable drive high into the net past the helpless McLaughlin.

The Hoops, with new Bhoy Chalie Musonda starting on the bench, maintained a ferocious tempo as they swarmed down on their opponents’ back-line that groaned under the weight of numbers.

Tierney tried his luck from distance before Dembele had an effort blocked by the keeper.

A second goal just had to come and it duly arrived in the 25th minute and once again Hearts were left totally exposed by the speed and execution of the raid.

James Forrest got in front of left-back Demetri Mitchell to head the ball down to the dangerous Dembele. He swiftly set up Dedryck Boyata, who had stayed in attack after a deadball situation, and the central defender slid the ball under McLaughlin with all the awareness of a seasoned goalscorer.

Hearts were reeling and there was litttle doubt the champions were in the mood to pile on the punishment.

Number three arrived nine minutes from the interval  and skipper Scott Brown began the move with a challenge on Harry Cochrane before releasing Tierney who thundered down the wing.

The left-back fired in a near-post cross and Dembele applied an accomplished finish to whip an effort past the shell-shocked McLaughlin.

Understandably, the pace dropped a little after the interval, but Rodgers’ outfit remained firmly in control as they moved the ball around with precision and adventure.

Dembele set up Edouard with a neat pass, but McLaughlin did well to race from his line and divert the shot.

Parkhead fans rose in unison just after the hour mark when Musonda came on to make his first appearance as a sub for Forrest.

He had the supporters cheering with a neat back-heel to the overlapping Kristoffer Ajer on the right wing.

The Norwegian crossed to the back post where Edouard and Dembele both had efforts blocked before the ball was smuggled to safety.

The ground, though, was silenced in the 67th minute when Kyle Lafferty scored with a curling shot from outside the box beyond the stranded Dorus de Vries. Remarkably, it was Hearts’ first attempt on goal all evening.

Scotty Sinclair came on for the impressive, but tiring, Dembele in the 70th minute as the champions looked to add to the scoreline.

Despite the loss of a goal, the Hoops were rarely troubled and Olivier Ntcham looked desperate to get on the scoresheet as he fired one just off target and came within a foot of adding a fourth with a shot that fizzed just wide with McLaughlin beaten.

Musonda then had a shot blocked by John Souttar after he snapped onto a loose pass from Don Cowie.

Callum McGregor came on for Edouard as Celtic eased their way to three more points in their quest for the seventh successive title.

All in all, a good night’s work for Rodgers’ men considering they had eight players sidelined through injury.

With a little bit of fortune they would have added to their three first-half goals, but no-one will be complaining as they hurtled 14 points clear at the top of the Premiership.

CQN Man of the Match – Scott Brown

TEAM: De Vries; Ajer, Simunovic, Boyata; Brown, Kouassi, Tierney; Forrest (sub: Musonda 61), Ntcham, Edouard (sub: McGregor 81); Dembele (sub: Sincalir 70).

NEW CQN PODCAST OUT NOW WITH SPECIAL GUEST FRANK McGARVEY

Paul John Dykes and Kevin Graham are joined by Frank McGarvey at The Penalty Spot in Glasgow.

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Frank discusses his time at Liverpool, signing for Celtic, his admiration for Jock Stein, his partnership with Charlie Nicholas, the 1985 Scottish Cup final, why this was his final appearance in the hoops, and Love Street 1986.

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