Opening up the 2021/22 Premiership campaign with a trip to Tynecastle on Saturday night, Celtic could only continue on what has been a real nightmare week for the lacklustre former Scottish champions.
Facing off against top-flight returners Hearts, the Hoops were hit with an action-packed 2-1 defeat on the road, only days after new boss Ange Postecoglou saw his side crash out of the Champions League qualifiers away in Denmark earlier in the week.
With the Jambos only piling more pressure onto Celtic with their last-gasp winner in Edinburgh, we have taken a look at the major talking points as Hearts opened the new season with a real flurry on home soil.
Hearts shock Scotland
While Celtic’s nightmare opener might steal most of the headlines from across Scotland this
weekend, there is no doubt that Hearts deserve all of the plaudits after what was a fairytale Premiership return for Robbie Neilson’s side.
Managing to make an immediate top-flight return last year after what was a string of off-field issues, the Jambos appear to have put those problems behind them and laid down a real marker in Edinburgh.
Backed by a noisy home support of just over 5,000 fans at Tynecastle on Saturday night, Hearts got themselves off to a flying start as former Celtic man Gary Mackay-Steven opened the scoring from close range with just eight minutes on the clock.
Putting in what was a rugged display as they marked their Premiership return, Neilson’s side
should find the mood in their camp at a red-hot high after what has been an eye-catching summer run.
Storming their way out of Group A in this year’s Scottish League Cup with four wins on the bounce, there was time for 24-year-old John Souttar to send the Tynecastle support into overdrive.
With just 90 seconds left, the former Dundee United starlet headed past Scott Bain following a controversial free-kick and managed to gain Hearts some much-welcomed revenge after their Scottish Cup defeat at Hampden last year.
Where do Celtic go from here?
Crashing out of the Champions League qualifiers for the fourth year on the bounce thanks to a 2-1 defeat away at Danish side Midtjylland in midweek, Celtic really do have the feel of a club in the midst of a crisis.
Watching Rangers snatch their Premiership crown last season and end their chance of making history with 10 on the bounce, the Hoops are clearly showing a real hangover after what has been a string of issues both on and off the pitch in Glasgow.
Already priced as high as 5/1 to recapture their title this season, new Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou is still waiting for his first competitive victory since taking charge. There is no doubting that the one-time Melbourne Victory boss would have been far from pleased by his side’s display at Tynecastle on Saturday night.
While young defender Anthony Ralston might have equalled the scoreline with a wonderful
solo effort 10 minutes after the break, the Hoops’ lightweight squad once again showed the same issues that saw them come under real scrutiny last season.
With it clear to all that attacking talisman Odsonne Edouard is desperate for a move away this summer, Celtic’s defeat on Saturday was the first time in 24 years that the former Scottish champions have lost their opening top-flight fixture.
What’s next for both?
Watching Rangers open the defence of their Premiership crown with a thumping 3-0 win against Livingston at Ibrox on Saturday lunchtime, Celtic already find themselves playing catch-up and are a side desperately seeking a boost.
However, before Postecoglou can get Celtic’s first domestic points on the board, the Hoops now face what is a hugely important trip to the Czech Republic to face Jablonec on Thursday evening as they drop down to the Europa League for the fourth season on the spin.
As for Hearts, after picking up their stunning 2-1 win on Saturday night, the Jambos will be smelling a real chance to make it back-to-back Premiership victories when they make the trip to Paisley next weekend. Neilson’s men will face off against a St. Mirren side who played out a 2-2 draw against Dundee United on their top-flight opener.
Hearts: Gordon (7.5), Souttar (8.5), Halkett (7.5), Kingsley (7), Smith (7), Baningime (8.5), Halliday (7.5), Cochrane (7.5), Ginnelly (7), Boyce (7.5), Mackay-Steven (7.5)
Subs: Gnanduillet (7), Haring (8)
Celtic: Bain (4), Ralston (6), Bitton (4), Starfelt (4.5), Taylor (4), Soro (4), McGregor (5), Abada (4), Turnball (4.5), Forrest (4), Edouard (3)
Subs: Rogic (N/A), Christie (3), Furuhashi (3)
Goals: Hearts: Mackay-Steven 8′, Souttar 89′ – Celtic: Ralston 54′
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Bobby Madden