The price on Craig Bellamy's head may be £6m but the Welshman swelled Celtic's coffers yesterday by sending the holders to the Scottish Cup final against Dundee United. By 28 May, Celtic might be able to raise the money that Newcastle United want for Bellamy's move to Glasgow to be made permanent, simply by selling replica strips with his name on the back.
A predatory finish early in the second half, adding to Chris Sutton's opener after just two minutes, proved the decisive factor in a semi-final that became taut after Deividas Cesnauskis conjured an audacious goal on the hour to halve Celtic's lead.
"I love this club and playing in the position that I love and with players that I like," said Bellamy later. Martin O'Neill was equally smitten. The Celtic manager wants to keep him and said: "He may have offers from leagues that are more inviting than ours but his excellent display here underlined why Newcastle want so much money for him."
The occasion was blighted by the jeering from Hearts fans during the silent tribute for Pope John Paul II. Stuart Dougal, the referee, cut it short after just 20 seconds and Hearts later apologised for the actions of a large chunk of their 15,000 support. The Scottish FA declared the scenes "an embarrassment for Scottish football."
Hearts had been hoping to repeat their success over Celtic at Parkhead in the League a week earlier to give them a chance to regain the trophy they won in 1998, but once Sutton scored after just three minutes, they were always chasing the tie. The former Chelsea striker met Alan Thompson's corner and headed into the roof of the net.
That galvanised Celtic, who controlled the first half and ought to have finished Hearts off. Hartson missed with a header set up by Sutton and then failed to stab in a pass from Neil Lennon after Stilian Petrov's clever turn.
Bellamy doubled the lead in the 49th minute, pouncing after Hartson knocked on Stanislav Varga's deep free-kick and firing a shot on the turn from 10 yards through Craig Gordon's grasp. Lee Wallace then denied Varga's diving header by clearing off the line before Cesnauskis threw Hearts a lifeline on the hour. The Lithuanian broke forward to gather Jamie McAllister's pass and whip a shot over the goalkeeper, David Marshall.
However, Celtic kept John Robertson's team at bay despite the hectic pressure and can now look forward to a fourth final in five years under O'Neill.
Goals: Sutton (3) 0-1; Bellamy (49) 0-2; Cesnauskis (60) 1-2.
Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2): Gordon; Neilson (Cesnauskis, 46), Pressley, Webster, Wallace; Hamill (Kizys, 57), MacFarlane (Wyness, 77), Hartley, McAllister; Miller, Burchill. Substitutes not used: Moilanen, Berra.
Celtic (4-4-2): Marshall; McNamara, Varga, Baldé, Valgaeren; Petrov, Lennon, Sutton, Thompson; Hartson (McGeady, 72), Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Douglas, Henchoz, Lambert, Maloney.
Referee: S Dougal.
Booked: Celtic McGeady.
Man of the match: Bellamy.
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