Leigh Griffiths found the net twice as Celtic made a flying start to their Scottish Premiership title defence with a 4-1 demolition of Hearts on Saturday.
Electric atmosphere at Parkhead
Griffiths opened the scoring in the 29th minute before Scott Sinclair made it two 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 charge in a caretaker capacity following Ian Cathro's sacking last week, grabbed a late consolation through substitute Isma Gonçalves.
The manner in which Celtic bulldozed today’s opponents sends out a warning to the rest of the league that the Hoops, who collected a treble last season as they finished the domestic campaign unbeaten, will be hard to stop as they chase a seventh successive title.
Celtic "outstanding" says Rodgers
“We wanted to put a statement down in our very first game. I thought the players were outstanding in all elements of our game”, Brendan Rodgers said afterwards. “We scored four and we maybe could have had a few more”.
The noise before kick-off was deafening as captain Scott Brown, in his testimonial year with the Hoops, unveiled the championship flag. 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.
He made amends four minutes later when he fired the hosts in front after latching on to Bitton's fabulous long ball and slotting 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 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 also 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. Gonçalves held off the challenge of Jozo Simunovic before firing home from a tight angle.