CELTIC 4 HEARTS 0
HAIL the Hooped history-makers! Unstoppable Celtic swept into the record books with a pulverising performance against Hearts at Parkhead this afternoon.
Brendan Rodgers watched his team smash a 50-year sequence held by the Lisbon Lions as they stretched their unbeaten domestic run to 27 games – one better than Jock Stein’s men in season 1966/67.
It may have taken fifty years to beat that record and the new Celtic history makers could add to this by going the entire season undefeated in domestic football. It’s worth checking on places like toponlinebookies.com to see how this could pan out. You can check out on all the results so far this season on the excellent The CelticWiki site.
Celtic are now a massive TWENTY-TWO points ahead at the top of the Premiership and a sixth successive crown will remain in the east end of Glasgow.
The Hoops racked up a four-goal triumph even without their twin main goal threat and the back-up of a prolific midfielder.
There was a blow for the champions even before the kick-off. Rodgers, already minus 33-goal duo Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths through injury, had to shuffle the pack again when Stuart Armstrong was injured in the warm-up.
McGregor was immediately promoted from the subs’ bench and his place was taken by Emilio Izaguirre.
Fate had already decreed the outcome when McGregor got the opening goal and Scott Sinclair, with two, and Patrick Roberts added to the runaway success after the interval.
At the start, Nir Bitton was covering an extraordinary amount of space on the pitch as he cleaned up at the back and forced play forward.
He had the chance to open the scoring from a Sinclair right-wing corner-kick, but sliced his shot just wide of the upright.
At the other end, he tidied up after a Jozo Simunovic mistimed tackle and again after a sloppy clearance from Craig Gordon.
As expected, Celtic had the bulk of the possession as they relentlessly beat a path towards Jack Hamilton’s goal.
Scott Brown saw a lot of the ball in midfield as he fetched, carried and passed in his usual hard-working fashion.
Sinclair roamed with menace and Roberts was eager to shine on a rare start.
To be fair, the Edinburgh side were well-organised and were swift to shut down space while always on the look to get behind Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata, who didn’t put a foot wrong, on the break.
But the barrier-crashing goal arrived in the 29th minute and it was a breathtaking effort that hurtled down the length of the pitch after Gordon had released Brown.
He carried the ball forward before pushing it to Sinclair, coming in from the left. Deftly, he placed the ball in front of the inrushing McGregor. His first touch was excellent before he curled a left-foot effort wide of the keeper and in off the base of the left-hand upright.
That ended the scoring in the first-half, but James Forrest should have doubled the advantage five minutes after the turnaround when he got on the end of a through ball ball from Cristian Gamboa, who was superb until his 79th substitution by Mikael Lustig.
The winger, however, dithered in his finishing and Hearts defender Liam Smith dived in to clear. It should have been a goal.
Seventeen minutes later, Forrest came off to be replaced by Liam Henderson as Rodgers reshaped his midline.
In the 72nd minute, in a rare foray forward by the Edinburgh side, Gordon made a timely save from Mauray Martin and a minute later Sinclair had an astonishing miss from six yards after a brilliant cross from Kieran Tierney, who tuned in a Man of the Match performance.
The Englishman’s timing was slightly off as he slid in at the back post and he missed the target completely.
Five minutes later, though, normal service was resumed when Sinclair netted the second goal.
Again, Tierney thundered in a left-wing cross that bamboozled the Hearts defence and the ball broke to the former Manchester City and Chelsea forward who toe-poked it home at the near post.
A minute later, Henderson played in the rampaging Tierney on the left and he picked out Roberts with a thoughtful reverse pass.
The on-loan winger took a touch with his right foot before battering an unsaveable left-foot drive high past Hamilton for the third.
A minute from time, teenage substitute Jack Aitchison, on for Roberts, was pulled down and referee Bobby Madden had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
A confident Sinclair strode forward before placing the award wide of Hamilton’s right hand for his 15th goal of the season.
Celtic Park celebrated and the question must now be asked: Who is going to stop Brendan Rodgers’ pacesetters from going through the domestic season unbeaten?
Aberdeen will do their best to provide an answer in midweek.
Don’t hold your breath. The Dons have already lost three out of three to the Hoops this season.
TEAM: Gordon; Gamboa (sub: Lustig 79), Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney; Brown, Bitton; Roberts (sub: Aitchison 82), McGregor, Forrest (sub: Henderson 67); Sinclair.