CELTIC gifted Hearts a goal of a start before roaring back to win 4-1 in front of a rocking Parkhead this afternoon.
The well-deserved triumph has all but guaranteed Ange Postecoglou’s side the Premiership crown with just two games left to play – against Dundee United on Tayside in midweek and Motherwell in Paradise a week today.
The Hoops are NINE points clear at the summit and also hold a 22-strike advantage in goal difference over their nearest challengers who must beat their Tannadice opponents at Ibrox tomorrow to prevent the tenth title in 11 years being delivered to the east end of Glasgow.
Ellis Simms momentarily stunned the home fans when he neatly fired past the exposed Joe Hart in the third minute, but the hosts were 2-1 ahead by the interval after goal from Japanese double-act Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi.
CLAP HANDS…Ange Postecoglou encourages his team as they pile on the pressure against Hearts.
It was all over after the interval when the impressive Matt O’Riley, who had earlier been denied by the woodwork, slid No.3 beyond Craig Gordon and Giorgos Giakoumakis, who came on for Kyogo, rifled in the fourth after a neat cut-back from his fellow-substitute James Forrest.
A beaming Postecoglou said: “We haven’t gone behind often on this run, but I was in no doubt of what the reaction would be.
“I’m sure some people were trying to see what it would do to us, but I’m really proud of the players, they don’t miss a beat or any belief on what we’re trying to do.
“I thought they were outstanding. When we’ve needed someone they’ve stepped up and it’s a different person wearing the cape every time, it’s not one or two we are relying on.
NO CHANCE…Craig Gordon is left helpless as Matt O’Riley (left) drills in the third Celtic goal.
“It’s a massive collective effort from all the players. I’m super pleased for them that they got the rewards they deserve.
“I said to the players before the game there are many ways to hit a finish line and we want to go through it at full speed and that’s what we showed today and what we want to do in the next couple of games.”
It would take a collapse of seismic proportions to prevent the Hoops being crowned Kings of Scotland, but Postecoglou, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “Nothing changes, we want to finish the season strong.
“Even at 2-1 at half-time we didn’t want to sit on it, we wanted to play our football and it’s what we’ll do in our next few games with that relentless quality.”
Now it’s onto Tannadice on Wednesday before the title party starts in earnest a week today against Motherwell in Paradise.