CELTIC 2 HEARTS 1
MARVELLOUS Mikey Johnston started and finished a perfect day as Celtic celebrated their eighth successive title with a triumph over Hearts at Parkhead this afternoon.
It was the lively winger who got the show on the road with an early opener and as the confrontation edged towards a 1-1 stalemate it was jaunty Johnston who supplied the killer touch six minutes from the end.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…the Celtic players are presented with their eighth successive league trophy.
He lit up the east end of Glasgow on Flag Day with an entertaining, adventurous thrust right from the off and made sure Paradise had a winning end to the Premiership campaign.
There was also the opportunity for the Hoops to introduce 16-year-old WonderBhoy Karamoko Dembele as a second-half substitute and he, too, brightened the afternoon and added to the party atmosphere.
The Hoops started off like a whirlwind, but, unfortunately, had blown themselves out long before the interval when they dithered in defence and forward passes lacked precision and guile.
Johnston fired in the opening goal in one minute and 22 seconds, but, alas, that was the only shot on target in the first 45 minutes.
Neil Lennon made wholesale changes with Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final against the same opponents looming, but several of the incoming players did little to stake a claim for a place at Hampden.
THE THINKER…Neil Lennon in full contemplative mood in the first-half.
The interim manager would not have been impressed with the lack of urgency going forward with far too many passes being rolled sideways and backwards, much like the dire display at Ibrox a week ago.
The goal that allowed the Edinburgh team back into the contest came from some remarkably sloppy play from the normally-reliable Scott Bain and Lennon would have been far from impressed with the enitre passage of play.
Kristoffer Ajer rolled the ball back to the keeper in the 18th minute and no danger threatened. However, it looked a clear insturction from Tynecastle gaffer Craig Levein to chase down balls in the Hoops half and especially when they went back to the shotstopper.
Craig Wighton put Bain under pressure and his clearance went straight to an opponent and the ball was shuttled across the 18-yard line to Jake Mulraney who was completely unmarked. He first-timed a measured, curling ball into the top left-hand corner and his effort struck the underside of the crossbar on its way into the net leaving the goalie absolutely helpless.
And yet Celtic had started so brightly with Johnston claiming an excellent goal inside two minutes. Oliver Ntcham started the move with a neat ball across from the left to Johnston.
JOY BHOY…Mikey Johnston celebrates afer the opening goal.
He showed the signs of things to come as he switched the ball to Ewan Henderson, took the return, veered to his right and then thumped the ball between keeper Bobby Zlamal and the near post for a brilliant goal.
The Celtic fans sat back and hoped for an onslaught, but the early verve and gusto disappeared with the team losing their eager approach.
Lennon must have had some words of advice at half-time because there was no doubt there was a more positive outlook when the team re-appeared for the second period with Dembele on in place of the hard-working Oliver Burke who put himself about without any reward.
Scott Sinclair played in Johnston early after the restart and keeper Zlamal had to look lively to save low to his left.
Minutes later, Dembele, clearly fouled by Aaron Hickey, picked himself up and raced 20 yards before zipping a shot just over the crossbar.
Referee Craig Thomson then booked the Hearts defender who could have no complaint.
DREAM DEBUT…Karamoko Dembele excited the fans in his first appearance.
In the 55th minute, Henderson set up Dembele who tried to catch out the keeper at his left-hand post, but the Polish shotstopper got down well to smuggle the ball round the post.
In the 64th minute, Lennon put on Callum McGregor for Henderson who was showing some neat tricks and flicks, but, unfortunately, not having an impact on proceedings.
Jozo Simunovic was then introduced for Filip Benkovic who had been booked rather harshly by the ref for a simple challenge.
The minutes were ticking down when Jeremy Toljan rolled the ball in front of Johnston wide on the left and the winger had an electrifying change of pace as he whipped between two defenders as he swept dangerously down on goal.
MAGIC JOHNSTON…two-goal Mikey Johnston was the star of the show.
He took aim from 25 yards before rifling a low drive past the diving and despairing Zlamal into the net off the inside of the right-hand post.
And he came so close to a hat-trick in stoppage time after some clever play that opened up an opportunity, but the Hearts shotstopper managed to beat away the angled effort.
And then the full-time whistle arrived to signal the Green Party for the eighth successive year.
Now there is the little matter of the Scottish Cup Final and the unprecedented treble treble at Hampden on Saturday.
TEAM: Bain; Ralston, Benkovic (sub: Simunovic 82), Ajer, Toljan; Bitton, Ntcham; Johnston, Henderson (sub: McGregor 64), Sinclair; Burke (sub: Dembele 46).