Celtic 4-1 Hearts: Scott Sinclair, Callum McGregor and Leigh Griffiths' double sees Hoops thrash Jambos
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 07/08/17 12:17pm
Leigh Griffiths scored twice as Celtic began the defence of their Scottish Premiership title with a 4-1 win over Hearts on Saturday.
After passing up a couple of clear chances in the first 25 minutes, Griffiths gave Celtic the lead (27) after collecting a ball over the top and showing quick feet to knock it past Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton.
Leigh Griffiths led the line for Celtic, Olivier Nthcam started in midfield ahead of Callum McGregor. For Hearts, in-form Kyle Lafferty started as the lone man up top.
Scott Sinclair doubled Celtic's lead early after the restart despite the efforts of Aaron Hughes (51), while Griffiths headed home his second with around 25 minutes to go.
Callum McGregor smashed a fourth into the roof of the net to stretch Celtic's unbeaten record in the league to 40 games, while Isma Goncalves grabbed a late consolation for Hearts, who now record five straight losses for the first time since 2013.
After an open beginning to the match, it was Celtic who settled the quicker and dominated possession, with Olivier Ntcham coming to the fore in midfield and Kieran Tierney seeing a lot of the ball down the left.
Nir Bitton had the first clear chance but headed wide from a corner, before Griffiths hit an effort straight at Hamilton with his right foot before blazing over with his left after being played through by Sinclair.
It proved to be third time lucky for the Scotland international, though, as after making an incisive run from the right wing, Bitton found him over the top with a superb ball. Griffiths brought it down but as the ball ran away from him, Hamilton impeded him to seemingly stop the chance, before the 26-year-old showed great quick feet to knock it into the net.
Celtic: Gordon (6), Lustig (6), Tierney (7), Simunovic (6), Bitton (7), Ntcham (8), Brown (7), McGregor (8), Sinclair (7), Forrest (6), Griffiths (8).
Subs: Armstrong (N/A) Hayes (N/A), Rogic (N/A)
Hearts:Hamilton (7), Brandon (5), Hughes (4), Berra (5), Grzelak (5),Michael Smith (5), Buaben (5), Cowie (5), Djoum (5), Moore (6), Lafferty (4).
Subs:Goncalves (6), Randall (N/A), Sammon (N/A).
Man of the match: Callum McGregor.
Celtic ended the half with a flowing move involving Griffiths, McGregor, James Forrest and Scott Brown, with the latter pulling off a sublime flick to play in McGregor after several sharp passes, but the midfielder dragged his effort wide to leave the score 1-0 at the break.
Sinclair doubled the lead after the interval, pouncing on a poor piece of play by 37-year-old defender Hughes at a corner to tap home from two yards out.
Scott Brown was the architect of Celtic's third as he played a lovely slide-rule pass through to McGregor, despite a suspicion of offside, who let the ball run across him and found Griffiths with a right-foot cross which the striker converted with a diving header for his 200th career club goal.
Ten minutes later it was 4-0 after magnificent play from Sinclair, who picked the ball up on halfway, turned past Jamie Brandon and Arnaud Djoum and drove to the Hearts box with searing pace before laying the ball off for McGregor to rifle into the roof of the net.
Goncalves grabbed a consolation for the Jambos after coming on as a substitute, sending a powerful drive past Craig Gordon.
Man of the match - Callum McGregor
Celtic midfielder McGregor was involved in most things positive going forward for the Hoops, scoring with a rasping drive and delivering a lovely cross for Griffiths' second.
Celtic next face Kilmarnock on Tuesday in the Scottish League Cup at Celtic Park, before travelling to Partick Thistle for their next Premiership game on Friday.
Hearts, who were knocked out of the League Cup by part-timers Peterhead, travel to Kilmarnock next Saturday in the Scottish Premiership.