Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou hailed his players for suffocating the Tynecastle atmosphere as they cruised into the Scottish Cup semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Hearts.
Reo Hatate forced a good save from Zander Clark even before Aaron Mooy steered home a second-minute opener after Jota got away from Kye Rowles down the Celtic right.
The visitors dominated the vast majority of the game and Kyogo Furuhashi’s creative finish just before the break further squeezed the life out of Hearts’ challenge before Cameron Carter-Vickers headed a third with 10 minutes left.
While Celtic were comfortable in the end, Postecoglou fully understood the significance of a flying start.
“It was important, we spoke about it,” he said. “When you come to Tynecastle the one thing you don’t want to do is give their crowd anything. They are going to be up and about it anyway so we needed to start the game very strong.
“We didn’t want to give them any oxygen. I said to the lads, at the beginning of the game they will cheer for everything, they will cheer for a throw-in, so we have got to quieten them down, and the way we started was outstanding.
“Not just the goal we scored, we created a couple of great chances, but our defensive work did not really allow them to get up the park at all. It really set the stall for us to go on and win the game.”
Celtic remain on course for the treble after a potentially tricky week which saw them score 11 goals in three games against St Mirren and Hearts, twice.
Postecoglou said: “It’s been a challenging week for us, we played Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday and the last game was the one we knew was going to be the most intensive, just the nature of it being a cup game away from home, particularly here at Tynecastle.
“The lads handled it really well, we started really strongly and for most part dominated the game and played some great football. They have navigated the whole week really well.”
Yuki Kobayashi replaced Carl Starfelt at half-time but the Swede’s injury is not thought to be serious.
“He felt a niggle in his hip flexor in the warm-up and flagged it up really early on in the game,” Postecoglou said. “We got him through to half-time but you could see he wasn’t moving well.
“I don’t think it is anything significant but it was good to get Yuki some game time and you could see his quality.”
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson bemoaned the build-up and timing of both first-half goals.
“The biggest thing was losing the goal so early in the game, that was a real disappointment,” Neilson said.
“Obviously coming into this game with the energy and trying to win it to get through, and losing a goal right away was difficult. We had the opportunity to cancel it out on the left-hand side and we let the boy through.
“To the players’ credit and to the fans’ credit, who were outstanding and got back behind the team, we managed to get a foothold back into the game and started to come into it with some chances and started to play well.
“And the crushing blow was the goal just before half-time. That was a real hard one because from a throw-in we weren’t set up and then we know that Kyogo 99 times out of 100 will make that front-post run and we allowed him to make it. That was probably the key moment in the game.”
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