HEARTS 3 CELTIC 4
GREG TAYLOR was the unlikely hero in this rollicking seven-goal thriller at Tynecastle where Celtic had to overcome VAR as well as Hearts to gain three points.
On a day of contentious decisions – none of them favouring the visitors – it was down to the left-back to nudge in the winner in the 76th minute.
The game had see-sawed one way and another, but the Hoops prevailed and won with goals from James Forrest, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Daizen Maeda and Taylor.
Well, you have to give the defender a round of applause for his timing. His winner was his first Premiership goal for the club since he joined from Kilmarnock in September 2019.
SLIDE IN TIME…Greg Taylor gets in front of Michael Smith to knock the ball wide of Craig Gordon for Celtic’s deserved winner at Tynecastle.
The first-half was laced with controversy with Celtic losing out TWICE to VAR in highly dubious penalty-kick decisions.
The Hoops were leading with a close-range header from James Forrest in the 14th minute, but didn’t build on their advantage with a rather puzzling performance in the capital.
However, despite some sloppy passing from the champions, they were still heading in at the interval with a one-goal lead until the dreaded VAR struck.
Cammy Devlin and Cameron Carter-Vickers went for a loose ball in the 18-yard box after the visitors had yet again failed to clear properly and positively.
Referee Nick Walsh, who had already made at least one decision that had bewildered the champions, waved play on, obviously satisfied the clash was accidental.
YIPPEE…Greg Taylor races away in triumph after his well-timed first league goal for the Hoops.
New technology came into play, however, and, after a delay of a minute or so, the match official was advised by colleague Steven McLean to check the touchline monitor.
No-one of a Celtic persuasion was one bit surprised when the whistler came back onto the pitch and pointed to the penalty spot.
The visitors had a case for a studs-up challenge from Devlin, but that meant little as the spot-kick was awarded in stoppage-time and substitute Lawrence Shankland gleefully accepted the gift and bashed the ball straight down the middle of the goal as Joe Hart took off for his right.
The Parkhead men were still simmering when they were denied a stonewaller only moments later when Michael Smith clearly stopped a Forrest cross with an outstetched left arm.
VAR did a quickfire check and, astoundingly, no anticipated penalty-kick was awarded.
Ange Postecoglou looked more than just a little bemused on the touchline. He threw his hands up in dismay and disbelief. The Celtic boss will have to get used to some of the same throughout the campaign.
DISBELIEF…Ange Postecoglou cannot contain himself as Celtic are denied a blatant penalty-kick.
THAT’S OUR BHOY…Aaron Mooy and Giorgos Giakoumakis race after matchwinner Greg Taylor.
In fact, the Hoops had a solid claim for a goal in the 21st minute when Aaron Mooy sent over a free-kick from the right that was met squarely by the head of Anthony Ralston who sent the ball thundering past former team-mate Craig Gordon.
Maeda had been in an offside position when the Australian international sent over the deadball effort, but he was clearly not interfering with play.
Welsh pointed for a phantom free-kick to the home side – presumably for a coming together with Giakoumakis and a defender – and VAR, after having a look, agreed with the referee.
If that warranted a foul, then it might be expected Celtic would be awarded a penalty-kick at every corner-kick with players being pushed and jostled and shirts being held.
We can always dream.
NUMBER ONE…James Forrest heads in from close range.
NUMBER TWO…Giorgos Giakoumakis makes it 2-2.
NUMBER THREE…Daizen Maeda puts Celtic back in front.
NUMBER FOUR…Greg Taylor prods the ball behind Craig Gordon for the winner.
One man who was in dreamland early on was Forrest who was on target for his 101st Hoops goal after last week’s hat-trick heroics against Hibs.
He actually started the move with a touch to Mooy who passed to Reo Hatate on the right. He knocked it in front of the rampaging Ralston and he fired in a superb low ball to the near post.
It created panic in the home rearguard and spun up off a defender and Gordon to Forrest who nodded in from just about under the bar.
Then came the VAR interruptions that we have to hope will not become the norm throughout the season.
The home side took the lead two minutes after the turnaround when Bernabei, struggling to deal with the pace of the contest, allowed Josh Ginnelly too much time to swing over a cross from the right.
Shankland was in front of Carter-Vickers at the near post to whip the ball past the static Hart. Offside? VAR had a look and decided the big toe of Bernabei must have played on the Hearts forward.
Five minutes later, Mooy blew the chance of an equaliser with only Gordon to beat after some good lead-up work from Hatate and Maeda.
Unbelievably, the Aussie fired wide from 10 yards. No wonder he looked distraught after a truly awful miss.
However, he helped to make amends in the 55th minute when he curled over a left-wing corner-kick and Giakoumakis arrived with perfect timing to send a header swirling low past Gordon at his left-hand post.
And four minutes later, the Hoops restored their advantage when Mooy sizzled in a low shot from the edge of the box that was pushed away by Gordon. Maeda pounced on the rebound to wallop a shot into the roof of the net.
Amazingly, Hearts were awarded a second penalty-kick in the 61st minute and, in truth, there could be no argument after Moritz Jenz, who had looked uncomfortable throughout the afternoon, knocked over Devlin with an awkward challenge.
VAR still checked the incident, but Shankland waited patiently with the ball on the spot as we all knew the inevitable outcome of the decsion from McLean and Co.
The striker aimed low to Hart’s right-hand post on this occasion, but the keeper got down swiftly to block the effort. It eventually spun to Ginnelly who knocked it over the line.
He looked clearly offside, but before there was the possibility of the goal being disallowed, VAR awarded a retake because of players encroaching in the box before the original kick.
Shankland breathed a sigh of relief at a second chance and this time he buried it in the corner as Hart went the wrong way.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…delighted Celtic players engulf unlikely goal hero Greg Taylor.
In the 66h minute, Postecoglou made a flurry of substitutions with Sead Haksabanovic, Liel Abada and Greg Taylor coming on for Meada, Forrest and Bernabei.
Ten minutes later, the final goal in a topsy-turvy encounter was thankfully supplied by Taylor and it was a deserved points-clincher for Postecoglou’s men who refused to accept anything less than a victory.
Hatate, Mooy and Abada were all involved in the build-up before the winger’s deflected shot found the left-back lurking at the back post.
Displaying the killer instincts of a seasoned goalscorer, Taylor slid in to get his foot to the ball and send it welcomingly into the back of the net.
Oliver Abildgaard came on for Hatate in the second minute of stoppage-time as Postecoglou shut up shop.
Right at the end, Haksabanovic sent Abada clear and the Israeli winger raced down on Gordon before slipping the ball under him.
Goal? It was a tight decision. No goal. No surprise.
Story of Celtic’s day when they overcame determined opponents – and new technology – to pick up three crucial points.
TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Bernabei (sub: Taylor 66); Mooy, O’Riley, Hatate (sub: Abildgaard 92); Forrest (sub: Abada 66), Giakoumakis, Maeda (sub: Haksabanovic 66).