Match ends, Celtic 1, Heart of Midlothian 0.
Kyogo Furuhashi’s contentious goal gave Celtic a win against Hearts and narrowed the gap at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
The Japanese forward darted to the front post to turn in Anthony Ralston’s cross but appeared to have strayed offside.
Celtic dominated for long spells but came up against stubborn Hearts defending, and the visitors had chances to earn a draw through Stephen Kingsley and Barrie McKay amid a strong finish.
Celtic’s victory takes them back to four points behind leaders Rangers, and moves them five clear of Hearts in third.
But the bad news for manager Ange Postecoglou came with injuries to Ralston, influential forward Jota, and defender Stephen Welsh with eight games still to play before the end of the month, including the League Cup final.
Celtic had won 18 of their last 19 home league meetings against Hearts, drawing one, and their dominance in the first half suggested that record would be bolstered.
Every statistic was in the home side’s favour at the break as they racked up shots on goal. The best effort before the breakthrough was James Forrest’s close-range strike off a post, which Craig Gordon foiled by touching the ball on to the winger as he steadied himself.
Kyogo’s goal was reward for Celtic’s pressure as he again showed sharp movement in the box to beat Craig Halkett to Ralston’s terrific cross, but replays did show the forward had gone too early.
Hearts had done a decent job of defending their penalty box despite posing little threat, but they improved in an attacking sense after the break as Liam Boyce and Gary Mackay-Steven came off the bench.
The latter had a brilliant chance late on to level but stumbled when sprinting through on goal, with McKay then flashing the ball just past the far post in the same move.
Kingsley ought to have brought his side level before that, as he escaped the attentions of the entire Celtic team to get on the end of McKay’s corner, only to guide his header wide.
It was a strong finish from Hearts, but Celtic could have easily added more goals as the game became stretched with Gordon denying Forrest and Tom Rogic, and David Turnbull firing wide.
Man of the match – David Turnbull
What did we learn?
For an hour, Celtic played really well. They shifted the ball quickly and their movement off the ball was excellent with Callum McGregor driving the team forward from the base of midfield.
While it looked offside, the goal was a well-worked move that went from one flank to the other at speed.
Turnbull and the returning Rogic looked good too, though the frustration will be that for the second game running Celtic’s dominance did not result in enough goals to secure victory early.
Squad depth is a familiar issue and it will be severely tested if Ralston, Welsh, and Jota are out for long spells amid a congested fixture list.
Hearts should be pleased with their performance, while obviously frustrated at the nature of the winning goal. Although they were up against it in the first half, defenders John Souttar and Craig Halkett put in lots of blocks to deny Celtic and keep them in the game.
The substitutions in the second half gave the visitors much more influence in attack as Boyce was able to hold on to the ball better, and they had good chances to snatch a draw.
What they said
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou: “It was a game with a fair bit on it which is great, it’s what you want for the supporters. We were just missing being more ruthless. At 1-0, the opposition are always in it but I think Joe [Hart] only had one save to really make, we defended very well I thought.
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson: “I was delighted with the players, especially the second half I thought we had the better of the game,” he said. “We played on the front foot, pressed Celtic and created chances.”
Celtic go to Tannadice for a noon Premiership showdown with Dundee United on Sunday, while Hearts make the short trip to Livingston on the same day (15:00 GMT).
Heart of Midlothian
- 56RalstonSubstituted forMontgomeryat 37′minutesBooked at 84mins
- 57WelshSubstituted forBittonat 73′minutes
- 17Neves FilipeSubstituted forJohnstonat 72′minutes
- 9WoodburnSubstituted forBoyceat 55′minutes
- 8McEneffSubstituted forMackay-Stevenat 66′minutes
- Bobby Madden
Second Half ends, Celtic 1, Heart of Midlothian 0.
Attempt blocked. James Forrest (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Josip Juranovic.
Josip Juranovic (Celtic) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Peter Haring (Heart of Midlothian).
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Cameron Devlin.
Attempt blocked. David Turnbull (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by James Forrest.
Attempt missed. Tomas Rogic (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Michael Johnston.
Attempt blocked. Tomas Rogic (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by James Forrest.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Craig Halkett.
Attempt blocked. David Turnbull (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Michael Johnston.
Attempt saved. Tomas Rogic (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.
Attempt missed. Barrie McKay (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.
Attempt saved. James Forrest (Celtic) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Kyogo Furuhashi.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Craig Gordon.
Adam Montgomery (Celtic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Adam Montgomery (Celtic).
Gary Mackay-Steven (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Carl Starfelt.
Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Josip Juranovic.