Celtic open up five-point lead with win at Hearts

Glasgow (AFP) –


Celtic opened up a five-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership as first half goals from Ryan Christie and Olivier Ntcham secured a 2-0 win at struggling Hearts on Wednesday.

The Scottish champions should have ran out more comfortable winners with Odsonne Edouard guilty of missing a host of chances, but did enough to win a ninth straight league game.

"It's an outstanding run of form we are in and it was another outstanding performance," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

"We should've won the game by more. The quality of chances and football was breathtaking."

Rangers have a game in hand on their Glasgow rivals and can cut the gap back to two points when they also travel to Edinburgh to face Hibernian on Friday.

At the other end of the table, only Celtic's profligate finishing prevented Hearts going bottom as they slipped to just one goal better off than Hamilton.

Hearts boss Daniel Stendel was taking charge of just his second game and the hosts looked keen to impress the German with an energetic start.

"We need this mentality in every game, not just against Celtic," said Stendel.

However, the Jambos rarely troubled Fraser Forster in the Celtic goal and were undone by one moment of magic from Christie on 28 minutes.

James Forrest played a one-two with Edouard to put Hearts on the back foot before Christie took over and drilled a 20-yard strike just inside the post.

Forrest then missed the target after a one-two with Ntcham left him one-on-one with Joel Pereira.

Hearts were exposed again moments later when Scott Brown won the ball and released Forrest, whose low cross from the left was swept home first time by Ntcham.

Callum McGregor was flagged offside after netting from close range and Edouard headed against a post before forcing a good save from Pereira after being left unmarked from a free-kick.

But Celtic were happy to settle for two at a venue where they are normally made to work much harder for all three points.