BY DARREN JOHNSTONE at Tynecastle
Hearts 1-2 Celtic
Leigh Griffiths inspired Celtic to a 2-1 League Cup victory over Hearts at Tynecastle after scoring one and setting up the other.
There had been little between the teams in this quarter-final contest that brought the first and third placed Premiership sides together but Griffiths conjured up a superb solo goal in the 71st minute – taking his tally for the campaign to 12.
That lead was increased nine minutes later when Griffiths set up substitute Tom Rogic.
Hearts offered late hope that they could salvage something from the game when substitute Arnaud Djoum headed in a corner, but the visitors held on.
Celtic did all this without the influential Scott Brown after their skipper picked up a knee injury in the warm-up and was replaced by James Forrest.
Winger Gary Mackay-Steven also had to remove himself from the substitutes bench before kick off due to a groin strain.
When the action got under way, it was Celtic that enjoyed prolonged spells of possession but they struggled to create any openings of note.
Stuart Armstrong was presented with a chance to get a shot away in the 22nd minute after he was found by Jozo Simunovic but the midfielder’s low right-footed effort was deflected just wide.
Hoops playmaker Kris Commons then fizzed a left-footed effort over Neil Alexnander’s
But Hearts grew into the tie as the minutes ticked towards half-time. Osman Sow did not have much service in attack but the Swede looked lively in the 27th minute when he spun away from Simunovic before knocking a tame left-footed shot wide.
Jambos left-back Jordan McGhee then twice cut in from the left in quick successive but each time his right-footed efforts failed to find the target.
Celtic ended the half knowing they should have been ahead. James Forrest got himself into a dangerous position inside the box and his low cross was completely fluffed by Armstrong six yards out.
Within seconds of coming on in the 59th minute Rogic came close to finding the net but his shot flew just over the bar.
At the opposite end, Sow thought he had score after poking Juanma’s knock down past Craig Gordon but his joy was interrupted by the sight of the assistant referee’s signal for offside.
The second half was a tense affair, with both teams giving little away. Griffiths tried to get involved with a couple of efforts that missed the target.
But the former Hibs marksman lapped up the acclaim of the 1,500 Celtic fans in the 71st minute when he showed great close-ball control to jink past McGhee and Igor Rossi before caressing an close range effort beyond Neil Alexander.
The Scotland internationalist played a central role in Celtic’s second in the 82nd minute too.
The forward held off the challenge of Morgaro Gomis in the box and his low cross was flicked into the net by Rogic.
Hearts pulled one back when substitute Djoum headed in Jamie Walker’s corner but it was too little, too late.