Saturday, February 22, 2014
Griffiths 57, Pukki 90+3
FRASER Forster made history once again, breaking the Scottish league shut-out record as Celtic overcame Hearts 2-0 at Tynecastle thanks to second-half strikes from Leigh Griffiths and Teemu Pukki.
The English internationalist had already surpassed the Hoops´ 92-year-old clean sheet record at the start of the month, which had been held by the great Charlie Shaw.
And the 25-year-old has now eclipsed Bobby Clark´s long-standing milestone as he kept his 13th consecutive clean sheet in the Scottish Premiership.
Griffiths had fired Celtic in front with a stunning strike 12 minutes after the interval, a memorable way for him to open his account for the club after his January signing from Wolves.
And as the home side threw men forward as the clock ticked down, substitute Pukki punished them with an emphatic finish to seal the spoils – Celtic´s 15th league win on the spin.
Charlie Mulgrew returned to the side as Neil Lennon makes one change from the team that put St Johnstone to the sword last week, with the Scottish internationalist replacing the injured Emilio Izaguirre in the starting XI.
The match started at a typically frenetic pace but Celtic quickly assumed control of possession and patiently probed for an opening against the defensively-minded hosts who deployed 10 men behind the ball.
With the middle of the pitch so congested, the Hoops looked most likely to profit by attacking down the flanks, and Kris Commons, Mulgrew and Adam Matthews all sent in a series of inviting crosses in the opening stages without reward.
It took until the 20th minute for a Celtic player to get a clear sight of goal as Stokes fastened onto Scott Brown´s pass but the Irishman´s effort was deflected behind by a last-gasp Hearts challenge.
After Commons was caught by Jamie Hamill, Virgil van Dijk had another chance to showcase his set-piece skills but his swerving effort from 30 yards flashed wide of the post.
Former Hibernian hitman Leigh Griffiths looked determined to make an impact against his former fierce rivals, and only a last-ditch challenge from Danny Wilson thwarted the striker after he has been picked out by Stefan Johansen. Brown fired the follow up over.
It had been one-way traffic but around the half-hour mark, the home side finally emerged from their defensive shell and forced a succession of corners.
However, Celtic survived and that meant Forster had passed Bobby Clark´s long-standing Scottish league record, a fact recognised by the travelling support who rose on masse to acclaim the big Englishman.
Commons and Van Dijk both came within inches of breaking the deadlock before the break and Ryan Stevenson tested Forster with a stinging drive after the interval but a goal remained elusive for both sides.
A foul on Brown by Hamill gave Commons the chance to shoot from 20 yards but his low effort was easily scooped up by MacDonald.
The attacker´s next set-piece proved more effective, his deep delivery headed goalwards by Stokes at the far post, forcing MacDonald into an excellent save.
And in the 57th minute, the home side´s resistance was finally broken thanks to a superb solo effort from Griffiths. The striker picked up possession inside the Hearts half, evaded the clutches of both Sam Nicholson and Danny Wilson before rifling a shot into the far corner.
Commons shot wide after Stokes´ chip was only partially cleared and Ambrose almost weaved his way through the entire Hearts defence after a trademark solo run as the Hoops looked to kill off the contest.
Van Dijk was next to bomb forward from the back but the Dutchman´s final effort was blocked after he collected Teemu Pukki´s return pass.
Without the security of a second goal, the Edinburgh side still had hope, however, and substitute Dale Carrick threatened on a couple of occasions without ever troubling Forster.
Substitute Derk Boerrigter nearly scored with his first touch before Hearts caused a scare when a high ball launched into the box hit the woodwork.
However, deep into stoppage time, Pukki finished with conviction following terrific work from Amido Balde to bank another three points for the Bhoys, stretching their unbeaten league record this season to an incredible 26 games.
CELTIC (4-4-2) Forster; Matthews, Ambrose, van Dijk, Mulgrew; Brown, Biton, Johansen (Boerrigter 83) Commons; Stokes (Balde 89) Griffiths (Pukki 67)
Not Used: Zaluska, Samaras, Fisher, Herron
HEARTS (4-5-1) MacDonald; McGowan, McKay, Wilson, McHattie; Paterson, Stevenson (King 81)Hamill, Robinson (Holt 81) Nicholson; McCallum (Carrick 52)
Not Used: Ridgers,, Oliver, McGhee, Beith
Website Man of the Match: Charlie Mulgrew