IT was hard to know who was busier.
Craig Gordon between the sticks for Hearts.
Odsonne Edouard slots in Celtic’s openerCredit: Kenneth Ramsay
….then celebrates with assist provider James ForrestCredit: Kenneth Ramsay
Or the guy outside selling Japan flags.
Either way, little Kyogo Furuhashi was responsible for giving both men endless work at Celtic Park yesterday.
The club’s Japanese Bhoy took his tally to five goals in five games with a vital strike in this Premier Sports Cup clash.
But had it not been for the former Hoops hero in goals against his old club it could easily have been more.
Ignore the scoreline at the top of the page because Ange Postecoglou’s side weren’t ever close to winning through to the quarter finals.
The hard facts of the game are that Odsonne Edouard and Stephen Welsh scored first-half goals for Celts before Liam Boyce pulled one back from the penalty spot.
Furuhashi then struck before Jambos sub Aaron McEneff’s hit the net in stoppage time.
But Celtic were never ever in any danger here with their all-acton performance testing Hearts – and Gordon – to the limits.
The visitors just didn’t have room to breathe.
They were made to look like a completely different side from the one that beat Celtic in the league just a few short weeks ago.
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They had good intentions of playing out from the back.
But the way Postecoglou’s men stood over them at goal kicks saw Gordon wave his team-mates up the park before booting it long.
And it was relentless from Celtic.
When the ball went out of play for throw-ins or corners they’d sprint to the touchline to get the game going again.
At free-kicks the ball would barely stop rolling.
With the 60,000 crowd whipped up into a frenzy Robbie Neilson’s side almost didn’t stand a chance.
Without Hearts keeper and captain Gordon it would have been a much more convincing victory for Celtic.
There was no lack of effort from his Jambos.
They were as determined as they were at Tynecastle on the opening day of the season.
But Celtic are a very different proposition now and Hearts just couldn’t cope.
Celtic: Hart 6, Ralston 7, Welsh 8, Starfelt 7, Taylor 7, McGregor 8, Forrest 8, Rogic 9, Turnbull 8, Furuhashi 8, Edouard 8.
Adam Montgomery 4 (Furuhashi, 75)
James McCarthy 3 (Rogic, 75)
Albi Ajeti 1 (Edouard, 88)
Ismaila Soro 1 (Turnbull, 88)
Hearts: Gordon 8, Smith 6, Souttar 6, Halkett 6, Kingsley 6, Cochrane 5, Halliday 4, Haring 5, Baningime 5, Mackay-Steven 5, Boyce 5
Josh Ginnelly 6 (Halliday, 45)
Aaron McEneff 4 (Haring, 68)
Jamie Walker 3 (Cochrane, 75)
72% POSSESSION 28%
35 SHOTS 5
11 SHOTS ON TARGET 2
14 CORNERS 1
15 FOULS 10
Ref: John Beaton could have awarded Celtic a first-half penalty when John Souttar appeared to handle the ball inside the box but the official gave the defender the benefit of the doubt.
The Hearts spot-kick was the right decision as was the booking to Odsonne Edouard for diving. 7
YELLOW 5 RED 0
Three things we learned
1 Celtic’s players have never needed to be so fit with Ange Postecoglou demanding a huge amount from them physically.
2 There is still work to be done with this Celtic defence who gifted Hearts two goals in a day when the team were cruising.
3 The Celtic Park street vendors who have started flogging Japan flags are going to do a roaring trade throughout this season.
Edouard was a shadow of the player he can be that night in Gorgie but here he looked interested again.
Time will tell on whether he’s at Celtic for the season but if this is anything to go by then he’s at least willing to play for the jersey.
There was still one embarrassing dive from him early on, mind.
His dead man’s fall act kidded no-one with referee John Beaton rightly booking him for it.
It was blatant cheating and the kind of thing Edouard probably wouldn’t have even thought about a couple of seasons ago.
But then within ten minutes the French striker showed what he’s all about when he wants to be.
His finish to fire Celtic ahead had class written all over it.
James Forrest picked him out with a perfect cut-back, after good play from little Furuhashi, but Edouard’s touch to beat Gordon was sublime.
The goal came on the half-hour mark but it had been coming.
Hearts were virtually camped in their own box with chance after chance coming for Celtic.
Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the second goal went in.
Tom Rogic looked favourite to get it with the way he was playing. The Aussie’s quick feet kept taking him into positions which looked likely to end in a goal.
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But in 34 minutes young defender Stephen Welsh was the man who made it 2-0 with a tremendous header.
Edouard was the provider this time after he whipped a short-corner into the box. All Welsh had to do was hit the target and he didn’t need to be asked twice.
The half-time whistle couldn’t come quickly enough for Neilson’s side given the pressure they were being put under.
They were maybe lucky they didn’t concede a penalty before the break when John Souttar appeared to handle the ball inside the box to block a shot from Rogic.
It was definitely in the seen-them-given category.
Neilson had to change something at the interval and his decision to take off Andy Halliday and replace him with Josh Ginnelly was a good one.
Celtic came back out with the intention to finish the tie off as early as they could and had it not been for another great save from Gordon it would have been 3-0.
But in 57 minutes Hearts were given fresh hope.
Postecoglou’s defence had been redundant up until that point in the game with keeper Joe Hart a virtual spectator.
But we’ve seen it before with this Celtic defence who always seem to want to give teams a chance.
Carl Starfelt did that when he brought Liam Boyce down inside the box to give away a needless spot kick.
Everyone in the ground could see the foul coming if the centre back wasn’t careful.
But Starfelt still lunged in and fouled the striker who picked himself to score his penalty past Hart.
At 2-1 Celtic had work to do again.
It was the type of situation which got the better of them last season and often saw them unravel.
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But there was no panic yesterday with Postecoglou’s players taking the set-back in their stride.
And it wasn’t long before their two-goal lead was restored.
It was in 63 minutes that Rogic set up Furuhashi with a slide-rule pass inside the box which saw the man from Japan blast past Gordon.
Of all the shorts drilled at the Scotland star it was probably one he would have expected to save.
But the sheer power took it through his arms and past him.
Postecoglou was able to make changes after that with new signing James McCarthy given his debut with 15 minutes remaining.
The game was over as a contest by then but to their great credit Hearts refused to chuck the towel in and in stoppage time they scored again.
Sub Aaron McEneff beat Hart at his near post with a good finish from inside the box.
It made the final result look better for the Jambos but only on paper. Celtic were convincing winners and fully deserved their place in the quarters finals.