While the score at Tynecastle last night looks lopsided, it might have been a completely different result in another world. After a positive build up, Hearts earned a corner kick after just two minutes of play. On the ensuing play into the box, the ball bounced around and eventually found Stephen Elliot's head. Celtic keeper Fraser Foster valiantly flicked the ball before it reached the back of the net, but the Hearts players celebrated as the ball appeared over the line.
With no signal from the line judge, Celtic moved the ball up the wing quickly and found SPL player of the month Scott Brown for a confident strike into the back of the net. Hearts fans were apoplectic. Players were incensed, but the scoreboard read 1-0 in favor of Celtic.
From that point on, the leaders of the Scottish Premier League appeared relentless, putting in two more goals before halftime. Twenty-year-old Victor Wanyama demonstrated prolific ball control in his 20th-minute blast form 10 yards, and Joe Ledley made the rest of the match irrelevant with his 31st-minute open net header from a Georgios Samaras cross.
While the disallowed goal seemed mentally debilitating for Hearts, Celtic were on top form from the opening whistle and played like league-leading squad. The win was Celtic's 13th SPL win in a row and more importantly increased their lead over Rangers to four points.
The result was understandably disappointing for Hearts, a team trying desperately for a late-season surge to move out of fourth place in the SPL. Hearts manager Paulo Sergio accepted responsibility for the loss, but lamented the missed call on his team's apparent goal.
"We could have scored the early goal and lost 6-1," Sergio said. "I can't say we win if the goal was allowed but you have to agree the game is different and harder for Celtic if they are behind." Still, Sergio added, "I have to say, for everybody, this defeat is my responsibility."
The loss exacerbates an already tumultuous week for Hearts as their starting goal keeper, Marian Kello defiantly announced his strained relationship with the club and HM Revenue and Customs has issued an ultimatum regarding unpaid taxes. Hearts have an opportunity to regroup on Saturday against Kilmarnock.
For Celtic, the result serves as further confirmation of a special season. Manager Neil Lennon's side look to continue their dominance against Hibernian this weekend.