Georgios Samaras grabs winner again to send Celtic back to summit

Celtic 1 Heart of Midlothian 0

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The Independent Football

Georgios Samaras fired his second match-winning goal of the week to send Celtic back to the top of the Scottish Premier League. The Greek forward converted a through ball from Kris Commons, who again was at the heart of all their best play, and Celtic comfortably saw out the win even though their performance failed to match the spark of their maiden Champions League away win against Spartak Moscow.

Celtic, who had been knocked off top spot briefly by Hibernian, were without Scott Brown, who continues to battle a hip problem, and lost his Scotland team-mate Charlie Mulgrew in the first half after an early collision with Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, who was carried off with a neck injury.

MacDonald was on the park long enough to force wide Mulgrew's shot. But there were immediate signals he would be unable to continue after he bravely attacked Emilio Izaguirre's cross to punch the ball away from a crowd of players before Commons and James Forrest failed to convert the loose ball. The goalkeeper was taken off in the 13th minute wearing a neck brace, Peter Enckelman taking his place.

Mulgrew played on, but only temporarily. He left the field, apparently concussed, after 32 minutes and handed the captain's armband to Samaras, who took just two minutes to embrace his new responsibility with what was to prove the only goal. Commons was the provider with a pass with the outside of his foot into the left channel; the Greece striker ran on to it and fired a left-foot shot through the legs of Enckelman.

Hearts, for whom Callum Paterson had missed a great chance to give them an early lead, posed a threat mainly from distance. Andrew Driver had a long-range effort deflected wide, Ryan Stevenson went close and Fraser Forster tipped over Mehdi Taouil's powerful strike. The visitors penned Celtic in their own half for long spells in the second half without creating any chances before Hoops manager Neil Lennon made a change in the 70th minute, replacing Hooper with Beram Kayal and switching formation from 4-4-1-1 to 4-3-3.

The tactical change almost brought instant reward with Commons firing just over the top corner after good skill in the box. Enckelman then saved from Izaguirre and two further chances fell to Samaras before Celtic survived a last-gasp scare when Driver shot just wide.