Grif­fiths at the dou­ble as Celtic rout Hearts

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

GLAS­GOW: Leigh Grif­fiths struck twice as Celtic made a fly­ing start to their Scot­tish Premier­ship ti­tle de­fence with a 4-1 thrash­ing of Hearts yes­ter­day. Grif­fiths opened the scor­ing in the 29th minute be­fore Scott Sin­clair made it 2-0 five min­utes af­ter the break at Park­head.

The Scot­land striker’s div­ing header added to Celtic’s ad­van­tage be­fore Cal­lum McGre­gor’s un­stop­pable strike made it four in the 73rd minute. Hearts, with un­der-20s coach Jon Daly in in­terim charge fol­low­ing Ian Cathro’s sack­ing in mid­week, grabbed a late con­so­la­tion through sub­sti­tute Isma Gon­calves.

The man­ner of Celtic’s win sends out a warn­ing to the rest of the league that the Hoops, who col­lected a tre­ble last sea­son as they fin­ished the cam­paign un­beaten, will be hard to stop as they chase a sev­enth suc­ces­sive ti­tle. The noise be­fore kick-off was deaf­en­ing as cap­tain Scott Brown, in his tes­ti­mo­nial year with the Hoops, un­veiled the cham­pi­onship flag.

How­ever, the at­mos­phere soon be­came strangely sub­dued, not helped by the no­table ab­sence of Ul­tras group The Green Brigade, who were serv­ing the sec­ond of a two-game sta­dium ban fol­low­ing their dis­play of para­mil­i­tary style ban­ners at their Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fier against Lin­field.

Nir Bit­ton had a chance to lift the home sup­port early on when he got on the end of an in-swing­ing cor­ner from Grif­fiths but the Is­raeli in­ter­na­tional sent his header into the side-net­ting. Celtic should have been in front in the 25th minute when Grif­fiths was sent clean through by Sin­clair, but the striker lashed his ef­fort wide with only the ‘keeper to beat.

Grif­fiths made amends four min­utes later as he fired Celtic in front when he latched on to Bit­ton’s fab­u­lous long ball and slot­ted home at the sec­ond at­tempt af­ter his first ef­fort was stopped by Jack Hamil­ton.

The sec­ond half was barely five min­utes old when Sin­clair made it 2-0. Hearts cap­tain Christophe Berra fluffed his at­tempted clear­ance of a Grif­fiths cor­ner and the ball landed to the English winger at the far post, al­low­ing him to tap in from close range.

Sin­clair then played a part in Celtic’s third goal as he slipped a pass through to McGre­gor whose fine cross was headed home by Grif­fiths from six yards out. Sin­clair was the ar­chi­tect of Celtic’s fourth goal as he raced at the re­treat­ing Hearts rear­guard be­fore pick­ing out McGre­gor, who sent a fierce left-foot strike into the roof of the net.

Hearts did man­age to pull one back in the 84th minute. Gon­calves held off the chal­lenge of Jozo Simunovic be­fore fir­ing home from a tight an­gle.

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