First at Parkhead since 1938
It seemed a shrug-and-move-on scoreline from Glasgow’s east end, even if the cut-and-thrust made the encounter a fascinating first act in a two-parter that concludes with the clubs’ Scottish Cup quarter-final at Tynecastle on Saturday. Three goals from Ange Postecoglou’s men isn’t even par for them at home in the league - even if there was nothing other than top drawer about their strikes. The brilliance of Kyogo Furuhashi to the fore with his befuddling, bendy runs and true touch central to his setting Daizen Maeda for the first and netting the second, ahead of Sead Haksabanic’s exquisite, curling drive. Yet, as soon as Furuhashi made it 2-1 with a virtuoso finish, an 85-year first became the property of this current Celtic side.
Postecoglou’s men have bagged at least two goals in their 14 straight home league wins this season. Not since 1937-38 has a team in green and white shown such potent consistency, and in that campaign they failed to win the first of those. No such problems for the present Celtic team, who could be responsible for all manner of other records if they continue to rack up top flight wins by emphatic margins.
VAR made game - but sympathy for Neilson gripe
Just imagine there hadn’t been VAR at Celtic Park last night. Josh Ginnelly’s seventh-minute opener, which allowed Hearts the platform to make a contest of it for more than an hour, would not have been given since assistant Craig Ferguson flagged for offside. Understandable, since it was half the big toe of Carl Starfelt that seemed to play him onside. A help to the officials, the technology was a get-out-of-jail-free card for nearside assistant Calum Space at the equaliser. He then raised his flag in the 25th minute for the position of Furuhashi on receiving a through pass from Anthony Ralston before he provided the telling cross. That patently required him to miss Andy Halliday playing the striker yards on. The engrossing contest would have been robbed of its drama without these two strikes, essentially awarded by the input of VAR arbiter Nick Walsh.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson felt his team had been robbed of justice when Alexandro Bernabei was late and heavy on Nathaniel Atkinson to catch him on the angle with the studs of his stretching leg after 28 minutes. Neilson was left baffled by a VAR check for a red card offence for serious foul play but referee Alan Muir not deeming the challenge worth even a yellow card, before then not being asked to consult his monitor by Walsh. A strange business, to fall back on the hackneyed of the football commentariat, you have seen them given. Cue the forever-outraged Neilson going all knowingly Monty Python to claim you need a “decapitation” for a home player at Celtic Park to be dismissed. His disgust on this occasion possessed merit. On an evening, it should be noted, he did express contentment his team did not merely pursue containment, early on having some joy “playing through” the champions.
Green Brigade and sell-outs
To mark Ange Postecoglou’s 100th game, at the end of it Green Brigade - following regular bursts of sectarian chanting - unfurled a banner that said had a line “here’s to 100 more”. A sentiment that, unusually, put them at one with the club’s pound-wise board. The Hearts encounter was the 10th sell-out for a league game at Celtic Park this season, an unprecedented development. It isn’t just the form on the pitch under the Australian that is on the money, then.