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The SPL champions bounce back from defeat against Inverness with three goals in the first half to help Neil Lennon's side rout crisis club Hearts and stay top of the league

A first half goal blitz from Lassad Niouoi, Mikael Lustig, a Ryan Stevenson own goal along with a late Gary Hooper strike saw Celtic get back to winning ways at crisis club Hearts.

The Parkhead side had only won one out of their last five games in the league, suffering a shock defeat at home to Inverness CT on Saturday, but managed to remain at the top of the table.

The home side made only the one change, with Kevin McHattie replacing the injured Danny Grainger, while Neil Lennon brought Kelvin Wilson, Joe Ledley and Lassad in place of Adam Matthews, Tony Watt and Georgios Samaras.

Lennon’s side came out with intent in the early minutes, with Hearts keeper Jamie MacDonald being forced to save a point blank effort from Kris Commons after the midfielder had received the ball from Hooper inside the box.

They eventually made the breakthrough when Commons was left free to deliver a ball from the left hand side for Lassad, who was free at the back post to volley a strike beyond MacDonald for the opener.

The lead was doubled by the visitors as a result of some poor defending from Hearts as they allowed Lassad to cross from the right, and when Darren Barr failed to properly clear the ball landed at the feet of Lustig, who rifled home the second.

Hearts almost came back into the game as Stevenson tried his luck from a long range free kick, but England international shot-stopper Fraser Forster proved his worth for the SPL champions, palming away the effort and then managing to save the rebound from Marius Zaliukas.

Celtic extended their lead further as Commons found space on the right wing, getting past McHattie, before crossing to Charlie Mulgrew at the back post, who cut the ball back looking for Hooper, but the unfortunate Stevenson got in the way to divert the ball past his own keeper.

The home side started a lot better at the start of the second half as McHattie rifled a free kick from the edge of the area, which Forster had to get down well in order to make sure the strike didn’t land in the back of the net.

With the points secure, Celtic took their foot off the gas and that allowed Hearts to get more efforts on goal, but substitute Mehdi Taouil found Forster in great form once again, as the keeper got behind a long-range strike from the Morocco international to keep his clean sheet intact.

With seven minutes left on the clock Celtic added a fourth as Mulgrew was given the freedom of the right-hand side by the Hearts defence, which allowed the Scotland international to whip the ball in for Hooper to volley home from close range.

Forster once again showed why he’s in the England squad as the giant goalkeeper went down superbly to punch away a Zaliukas penalty, after Kelvin Wilson was adjudged to have brought down Stevenson in the box.

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