CELTIC'S REVIVAL came to a shuddering halt as Hearts derailed their attempt to record a third consecutive victory. Wins over Rangers and Motherwell had brought Dr Josef Venglos' side back in touch with Rangers, the league leaders, and, after Dunfermline's draw at Ibrox on Saturday, there was a chance for Celtic to trim the gap to two points. They failed spectacularly to make an impression on the game until the last 15 minutes when Phil O'Donnell scored to give them some hope.
Until then the Celtic midfield was over-run by the home side, who might have recorded a more comfortable victory.
Hearts went in at the break with a single goal advantage thanks to Stephane Adam. Vincent Guerin slipped past a challenge on the right hand side before reaching the goal line and his cross was headed into the bottom corner by the Frenchman. At that stage the home side were worthy of their lead with Jim Hamilton denied in the 25th minute by Jonathon Gould, the Celtic goalkeeper, who also reacted brilliantly in the 35th minute to push away a volley from Dave McPherson.
Within three minutes of the re-start Hearts increased their lead. Hamilton crossed low from the right for Adam, who flicked the ball home as the Celtic defence stood claiming offside.
The Celtic response was muted on a night when they struggled to define fluency in their game. A long-range effort by Alan Stubbs was too straight and too easy for the goalkeeper and before long Hearts again troubled the Celtic defence. Thomas Flogel volleyed over the bar and then Gould brilliantly flicked away an Adam shot.
In the 73rd minute Celtic resurrected their chances when a Henrik Larsson cross fell to O'Donnell, who slammed the ball home from six yards. The same player shot narrowly over and Stephane Mahe had a close-range effort blocked by Gilles Rousset. For Celtic it proved too little, too late.
The Hearts manager, Jim Jefferies, later revealed they had rejected an offer for the winger Neil McCann, thought to have been made by Rangers.
"It is out of our hands when it reaches a certain level. He has a clause and if there is an offer at a certain level then it is his decision," said Jefferies.
Goals: Adam (37) 1-0; (49) 2-0; O'Donnell (74) 2-1.
Hearts (4-4-2): Rousset; McPherson, Weir, Ritchie, Maysmith; Flogel, Guerin, (Locke, 83), Murray, Fulton; Hamilton (Holmes, 80), Adam (Juanjo, 87).
Celtic (4-4-2): Gould; Boyd, Stubbs, Mjallby, Mahe; Riseth, Donnelly, Lambert, O'Donnell; Larsson, Moravcik (Burchill, 60)
Referee: M McCurry (Glasgow).Reuse content