Celtic's shadow squad prosper

Heart of Midlothian 1 Celtic 4
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The Independent Online

Fielding a weakened team has brought harsh punishments in the past, but this shadow Celtic side simply dealt out one of their own at Tynecastle yesterday.

Only one of Martin O'Neill's side – captain Tom Boyd – is likely to set foot on the pitch at Hampden Park on Saturday for the Scottish Cup final, yet that did not prevent this Celtic XI inflicting a savage beating to Hearts.

Celtic could afford to rest their usual instrument of torture, Henrik Larsson, as the Scottish Premier League champions rang up a century of points in style with the young strikers Simon Lynch and Shaun Maloney each scoring twice.

"We've had players like Maloney, Stephen Crainey and Jamie Smith in the squad all year," said Celtic's manager Martin O'Neill. "Simon has been out for over a year with a pelvic injury, but his return was worth waiting for and hopefully he can make inroads into the first team next year."

Hearts would argue that Lynch, 19, looks like a ready-made article now. Certainly, there was little shyness about the way he bulldozed Celtic into a 12th minute lead. He pounced on a flick-on from Mohamed Sylla and lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper Antti Niemi before finishing off the move with a diving header which almost took his marker, Andy Webster, into the net with the ball.

Hearts, though, responded with an equaliser just after the half-hour. Kenny Milne's long ball caught out Morten Wieghorst, in the unfamiliar role of centre-back, and Ricardo Fuller's pace took him clear of the Danish international before burying a shot past Jonathan Gould.

Lynch, however, restored Celtic's lead four minutes before the interval. Smith went on a mesmeric run past four defenders and set up Lynch, who angled a right-foot shot past Niemi. Celtic's other precocious forward, Maloney, made his mark in the 50th minute. He drew a foul from Robert Tomaschek and curled a 25 yard free-kick into to the top right-hand corner.

The teenager then grabbed his second of the game, in the 66th minute, by rifling in a left-foot shot from Lynch's cutback. However, the pair fell out in the last minute when Steve Guppy earned a penalty, with Maloney finally wrestling the ball away – only to strike the post with his kick.

Goals: Lynch (12) 0-1; Fuller (33) 1-1; Lynch (41) 1-2; Maloney (50) 1-3; Maloney (65) 1-4.

Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2): Niemi; Maybury, Severin, Webster, Mahé; Simmons, Milne (Kirk, 64), Fulton (Wales, 78), Tomaschek (Hammill, 57); Fuller, Flögel. Substitutes not used: McKenzie (gk), McCann.

Celtic (3-5-2): Gould; Kennedy, Wieghorst, Boyd; Smith, McNamara, Healy, Sylla, Guppy; Lynch, Maloney. Substitutes not used: Douglas (gk), Thompson, Petrov, Moravcik, McGovern.

Referee: J Rowbotham.

Booking: Healy (Celtic).

Man of the match: Smith.

Attendance: 12,391.

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