Hearts boost Euro chances
By Lewis Rutledge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Hearts increased their chances of finishing second with a 3-0 win over Celtic.
Hearts boosted their chances of securing second place in the Scottish Premier League with a thrilling 3-0 win over Celtic.
The Jambos survived an early chance when Stephen McManus fired tamely at Craig Gordon from close range, before stunning the table-toppers with two quick goals.
McManus diverted the ball into his own net after seven minutes as he tried to head clear Paul Hartley's curling free kick.
Just two minutes later Hartley got on the scoresheet himself, seizing on a moment of uncertainty from Celtic to brilliantly convert a 25-yard free kick.
Stanislav Varga fouled Roman Bednar and while Celtic were setting up their defensive wall, Hartley curled a sublime shot past the stranded Artur Boruc.
In a pulsating match, the sides traded chances for almost an hour until Bednar wrapped up the points for Hearts with a third goal.
In the intervening period Rudolf Skacel rattled the woodwork for Hearts, while Roy Keane wasted a glorious opportunity for Celtic, shooting straight into the arms of Gordon from inside the area.
Maciej Zurawski also came close to reducing Celtic's arrears with a thunderous angled shot which Gordon tipped over the bar, as Gordon Strachan's men refused to cave in.
The game fizzled out after Bednar's beautifully constructed third though. Deividas Cesnauskis found Hartley and he in turn sent Bednar clear with an incisive pass. The striker showed The Hoops' back line a clean pair of heels, before finishing with aplomb (63)
Hearts saw out the final stages safely to extend their lead over nearest rivals Rangers to four points.