Roberts at the double as Celtic break Hearts
Patrick Roberts scored a double as Celtic came from behind to claim a thrilling 3-1 win over Hearts on Saturday that extends their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to seven points.
Jamie Walker had fired Hearts in front after just five minutes but Celtic soon responded as Gary Mackay-Steven drilled home a 15th-minute equaliser.
On-loan Manchester City winger Roberts, making just his second start for Celtic, had the Hoops ahead with his first senior goal in the 35th minute before curling home his second of the match three minutes after the break.
Hearts’ Juwon Oshaniwa was then ordered off in stoppage time after receiving his second yellow for a foul on Nir Bitton.
The result hands the Hoops an impressive advantage over Aberdeen, who play Hamilton Academical on Sunday, as they chase a fifth league title in a row, while Hearts remain on course to finish third despite a second straight defeat.
The visitors made a bright start at Celtic Park and were rewarded when Walker fired them into the lead.
The Hearts midfielder took advantage of some dithering Celtic defending to collect the ball before rifling an unstoppable shot beyond Craig Gordon and into the top corner.
Celtic’s response was quick and the Hoops came close to an equaliser when Leigh Griffiths’ ferocious free-kick looked to be flying in but Neil Alexander produced a superb save to push it round the post.
However, Hearts failure to deal with the resultant corner saw Celtic draw level.
The ball pinged about the box but when Juanma’s header landed at Mackay-Steven’s feet at the edge of the box the winger arrowed a low left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
The frantic pace of the match continued with Griffiths denied by an excellent block from Alexander before Arnaud Djoum dragged a shot wide for the Jambos.
Hearts skipper Alim Ozturk clipped the bar with a free-kick, Sam Nicholson fired wide and Juanma blazed a shot over the bar from close range as the visitors impressed.
They were left to rue those missed chances, however, as Roberts gave Celtic the lead.
Socceroo star Tom Rogic robbed Oshaniwa on the right wing and slid the ball through for Roberts, who dinked the ball over the advancing Alexander.
Tempers spilled over in the 40th minute after a clash of heads between Oshaniwa and Rogic, which resulted in the Hearts player being booked and left the Australian midfielder unable to continue.
In the resulting melee Griffiths and Prince Buaben were also given yellow cards for clashing on the half-way line.
Celtic started the second half in determined fashion and soon extended their advantage. Stefan Johansen teed up the winger, who cut in from the right before curling a left-foot effort round Alexander and into the bottom corner.
Alexander then nearly handed Celtic another as his dithering on the ball allowed Griffiths to charge down his attempted clearance but the ball squirmed narrowly wide, much to the keeper’s relief.
Oshaniwa’s rash challenge on Bitton three minutes into stoppage time earned the Hearts player his second booking as the Jambos finished with 10 men.
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