Celtic made it three wins from three in the Scottish Premiership with a solid 3-1 win over Craig Levein’s Hearts on Sunday.
The Edinburgh visitors were no match for Neil Lennon’s men from the off. They rarely had the ambition to try and impact on the game positively until it was beyond them.
The Hoops meanwhile were full of intent and eager to rack up the goals. Following on from Thursday night’s match we’re showing the ideal form heading into a crucial week at home and abroad.
Two wins from two in our upcoming matches would certainly begin to put the Champions League horror show well in our rear view mirror.
Lennon will be delighted with the victory considering he rotated some key players out of the team and gave some fringe players like Vakoun Bayo a rare opportunity.
How did he and others get on?
Our player ratings in full are as follows…
Fraser Forster – 6
There was obviously a bit of pressure on Forster’s shoulders this afternoon after a somewhat surprising inclusion. Hearts rarely threatened the Englishman enough to push his score up higher here. Was booked in the first half after covering a high ball over the top. He made a penalty save from Conor Washington but couldn’t prevent the rebound spoiling the clean sheet. He’ll be delighted to get a 90 minutes under his belt.
Kristoffer Ajer – 9
The Norwegian international was his usual energetic self on the right flank. He constantly probed and provided an outlet for cross-field balls. It was also the 21-year-old who provided a classy cross that led to our third goal. He’s rapidly becoming the best right-back we’ve had for a number of years. He’s been so good recently that there’s actually a worry how the team perform without him installed in the position. Superb.
Christopher Jullien – 6
The Frenchman didn’t look entirely comfortable throughout, without finding himself in any real danger. When he had to commit to tackles or headers he was assured in his duties. However, his positioning and pace looked a little suspect, especially in the first half. He’s still adjusting to life in Scotland and hopefully he can grow more assertive as the weeks and months go on.
Nir Bitton – 7
The Israeli international didn’t have to defend his goal too often. However, his distribution was exceptional throughout the 90 minutes, often raking passes forward for his teammates to latch on to. In these matches when Celtic dominate possession and territory, having him as a deep ball playing centre-back can be a real positive.
Boli Bolingoli – 7
The Belgian is growing ever more confident in his boots at Celtic Park. He didn’t produce anything near a stand-out performance but he’s a really useful tool when attacking on the left flank. The new signing appeared to enjoy linking up with James Forrest. Hopefully he can now find consistency with his performances and really settle into his role.
Scott Brown – 5
The captain was pretty quiet throughout and certainly wasn’t as busy as his midfield partners on the ball. The veteran also conceded his second penalty in as many weeks. It’s a mistake that could raise further question marks about his continued selection. He was his usual functional self but with more dynamic players now available in the middle of the park, is it time to pursue a McGregor, Ntcham and Christie midfield three?
Callum McGregor – 8
The playmaker was a lively presence when helping pressure the Hearts defence. The highlight of his game was undoubtedly his superb accurate drive past Joel Pereira for our second goal of the afternoon. That more than anything pushes his score up, but he’ll be delighted with his all-round efforts.
Olivier Ntcham – 7
The Frenchman persevered throughout his time on the pitch but couldn’t quite find that creative cutting edge to really punish Hearts. Most of our play ran through him in the first half, but by the time he was substituted off it wasn’t much of a surprise to see him depart the game. He was far from a poor performer but he has the ability to produce magic and that was lacking a little this afternoon.
Ryan Christie – 7
Christie may well be the hardest worker in Lennon’s team right now. The Scotland international is such a crucial cog in the Celtic machine even when not bursting into the box and firing in the goals. He did notch up another assist though, providing the pass for McGregor to slam home.
James Forrest – 7
The winger was an effective attacking presence from start to finish and it was his ball in from the left that was shunted into the net for our opener. By his own standards it wasn’t a ridiculously good stand-out performance but it just goes to show that even on his quieter days he’s still a solid performer who we are lucky to have.
Vakoun Bayo – 8
The Ivorian forward had a lot to prove on his first start after months of fitness problems and certainly didn’t disappoint. Putting enough pressure on Christophe Berra to force a goal in the first half, he hit the back of the net in the second half too. Also threatening with two headers, one of which hit the woodwork, he put in some shift before being subbed off. Tireless and energetic, the fringe man deserves more chances.
None of the substitutes – Mikey Johnston (6), Leigh Griffiths (6) or Anthony Ralston (6), really had a say in the match. The former two threatened to combine on the counter but Hearts managed to stand firm.