CELTIC squandered the opportunity to reclaim top spot in the cinch Premiership from Rangers this afternoon when they crashed to a 2-0 defeat to third-placed Hearts at Tynecastle.

With the Ibrox club being unexpectedly beaten 2-1 at home by Motherwell yesterday, the defending champions had an added incentive to triumph in Gorgie.

A victory over Steven Naismith’s team in the capital would have taken Brendan Rodgers’ side a point above their city rivals in the table with nine matches remaining.

But Celtic slumped to their second league defeat of the season to Hearts – the first time that has happened since way back in 2007 – after Adam Idah had missed a spot kick and Yang Hyeon-gyu had been red carded.

Jorge Grant put the hosts 1-0 ahead with a spot kick two minutes before half-time when a VAR check showed that Tomoki Iwata had handled the ball inside his own area.    

The Herald: Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland, who had earlier had a goal ruled out for offside, doubled his side’s lead in the second half.

Here are five talking points from an incident-packed encounter which will have massive ramifications in the Scottish title.


Hearts fans went from cursing VAR to applauding it in the space of four frenetic first half minutes.

They were incensed when referee Don Robertson awarded a penalty against them early on after Yang went to ground following a challenge by Alex Cochrane.

Over at Clydesdale House in Glasgow, though, VAR official John Beaton saw nothing wrong with the decision after watching a replay.

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Idah, who had netted twice from the spot in the 2-1 triumph over Hibernian at Easter Road last month, stepped forward to take it and chose to shoot straight down the middle. Zander Clark dived to his right but saved the attempt with his outstretched legs.

Yang was booked for a foul on Cochrane moments later. But Robertson was urged to view the flashpoint again by Beaton and he upgraded the yellow to a red after having a look at his pitchside monitor.

The South Korean looked disconsolate as he trudged up the tunnel. But he could have no complaints about his punishment. His boot was high and caught his opponent on the side of the face. It was not malicious but it was serious foul play.

There was more VAR drama shortly before half-time when Beaton spotted that Iwata had handled inside his own area. Robertson had another look and gave the hosts the chance to net from 12 yards.

Grant made no mistake as Hearts supporters goaded their Celtic counterparts in the Wheatfield Stand with chants of “it’s a conspiracy”.

That, though, was not the last timer that the new technology was used in the first half. Shankland had the goal he netted in added-on time disallowed when it was shown he had been in an offside position when Alan Forrest played the ball through to him.


Rodgers revealed on Friday that his captain McGregor had missed training at Lennoxtown due to Achilles and calf issues and the worst fears of supporters were confirmed before kick-off today when he was not named in the match day squad.

This was the first league game the Scotland midfielder had sat out in the entire 2023/24 campaign.

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The man who is consistently among the most-played footballers in the world game every season is set to be sidelined until after the international break later on this month.

Paulo Bernardo took his place in the starting line-up alongside Tomoki Iwata and Matt O’Riley in what was the only Celtic change. Could the Portuguese player fill a massive void the centre of the park and ensure that his skipper was not missed?  

Bernardo worked hard to create an opening which his team mates could capitalise on. But he was replaced by Kyogo Furuhashi at the start of the second half as Rodgers went on the offensive in an attempt to get the three points.

The Herald: The presence and influence of McGregor, who watched proceedings from behind the away dugout, was badly needed.  


Naismith made no fewer than five changes, two of which were injury enforced, to the Hearts team which had taken to the field in the Edinburgh derby on Wednesday night.

Frankie Kent and Kenneth Vargas were unavailable due to the knocks they suffered in midweek and Nathan Atkinson, Cammy Devlin and Scott Fraser dropped to the bench. Kye Rowles, Tony Sibbick, Dexter Lembikisa, Jorge Grant and Beni Baningme came in.

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Freshening up his side worked wonders. Yes, they were helped by having a numerical advantage for most of the fixture. But they effectively nullified the threat their rivals posed going forward and created numerous scoring chances. Joe Hart had a busy afternoon. Hearts were deserved winners.


The Hearts captain is sure to be included in the Scotland squad that travels to the Euro 2024 finals in Germany this summer if he avoids picking up an injury between now and June.

But should the striker start for his country ahead of Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes going forward? He is giving national team manager Steve Clarke much to ponder with his current form. His second half strike took his tally for this term to 27. He has now netted 10 times in 10 appearances in 2024.

Clarke would be well advised to hand the 28-year-old extensive game time in the friendlies with the Netherlands and Northern Ireland later this month and see how he fares.  


Angus Gunn should, having recovered from the injury which kept him out of the final Euro 2024 qualifiers against Georgia and Norway back in November, get the nod to start for Scotland ahead of Zander Clark in the Johan Cruyff Arena and Hampden.

But the Hearts keeper showed the Norwich City man he has stuff competition for his berth today. He did well to keep Idah’s penalty out in the first half and denied the Republic of Ireland internationalist twice and Japanese striker Furuhashi with excellent saves in the second.

The Herald: