Roberts turns on the style as Celtic see off rivals Hearts
Celtic 3 Hearts 1
Published 02/04/2016 | 14:50
A Patrick Roberts double helped Celtic to a 3-1 win over Hearts and took the Hoops seven points clear at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Jamie Walker fired the visitors ahead in the sixth minute of a feisty, absorbing lunchtime encounter at Parkhead before Gary Mackay-Steven levelled in the 15th minute with a fine strike.
Roberts, on loan from Manchester City since January, had the Hoops ahead at the interval with his first senior goal and the 19-year-old grabbed his second four minutes after the restart to clinch the points with Hearts' Juwon Oshaniwa sent off in injury time for picking up the second of two yellow cards.
Celtic have played the same number of games as second-placed Dons who have the opportunity to reduce the deficit at home to Hamilton on Sunday.
However, games are running out for the Pittodrie men and it was a tough test in more ways than one that Ronny Deila's side came through ahead of their visit to Dundee on Tuesday.
The Norwegian freshened his side up after the international break, with Dedryck Boyata, Stefan Johansen, Tom Rogic, Roberts and Mackay-Steven coming into the starting line-up.
Jambos boss Robbie Neilson also made five changes with captain Alim Ozturk, Igor Rossi, Oshaniwa, Prince Buaben and Sam Nicholson returning.
The third-placed Tynecastle men took an early lead after Parkhead stopper Erik Sviatchenko was held off by Jambos striker Juanma at the edge of the box and when the ball fell to Walker he hammered high past Hoops keeper Craig Gordon.
Celtic played through some growing anxiety among their fans before Mackay-Steven levelled.
Jambos keeper Neil Alexander made a fine save from Leigh Griffiths' free-kick at the expense of a corner which the Edinburgh side failed to clear and when Roberts' cross was knocked out by Juanma, the former Dundee United winger steadied himself before drilling his a shot from 22 yards into the corner.
The game sped from end to end and after Alexander blocked a Griffiths effort with his legs, Ozturk clipped the top of the bar with a curling free-kick.
In the 34th minute Juanma volleyed high over the bar from close range following a Nicholson cut-back.
A minute later Celtic were ahead, Rogic cleverly slipping in Roberts who confidently dinked the ball over Alexander from 10 yards.
There was a lot of pushing and shoving between players from both sides when Rogic and Oshaniwa clashed, the Hearts player booked for his troubles when it had all calmed down and he waited to back on to the pitch with a bandage on his head, with yellow cards also for Buaben and Griffiths.
The groggy Rogic was replaced by Nir Bitton just before the interval and there was time for Alexander to save two more free kicks from Griffiths.
Boyata began the second-half action with a header from a Roberts corner which Alexander clawed away on the line but in the 49th minute the Gorgie keeper had no chance when Roberts curled a shot from 16 yards past him and into the far corner.
Hearts tried to respond but to no avail.
Chances were made and missed at both ends - Gordon made a great finger-tip save from substitute Abiola Dauda's header with two minutes remaining - before Oshaniwa was shown a second yellow in the third minute of injury time for a foul on Bitton.