Celtic 5 Hearts 0
Gary Hooper helped himself to five goals as he and Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions Celtic ended their season in style with a thrashing of Hearts at Parkhead.
The former Scunthorpe striker grabbed a first-half hat-trick, one coming from the spot, as Neil Lennon’s men demolished the much-changed visitors.
Hooper struck twice more after the break, his fifth from a Georgios Samaras cross with three minutes remaining, taking his tally for to the season to 29 and joining Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd in players who have scored five goals in an SPL game.
The romp confirmed Celtic’s supremacy this season with Neil Lennon’s men finishing on 93 points, one more than last season when they finished second to Old Firm rivals Rangers.
Lennon made two changes as Victor Wanyama came in for right-back Mikael Lustig and striker Samaras took over from Anthony Stokes.
There was no surprise that Hearts made seven changes ahead of next week’s William Hill Scottish Cup final against Edinburgh rivals Hibernian, starting with a front three of Arvydas Novikovas, Gary Glen and David Templeton.
Lennon, though, had expected the Gorgie club to have one eye on Hampden and it certainly looked that way in the first-half as Hooper punished their lethargy.
Jambos keeper Jamie MacDonald had to make an early save from Hooper after the Celtic striker had been set up by Kris Commons but the two men were involved in the fifth minute when the home side opened the scoring.
After Templeton failed to control a cross from Hoops left-back Emilio Izaguirre, Commons’ drive was spilled by MacDonald and Hooper was first to react to knock the ball in to the net from close range.
Moments later, the Scotland midfielder drilled in a low free-kick which MacDonald saved comfortably but he had no chance in the eighth minute when Samaras slalomed through his defence and past skipper Marius Zaliukas to set up Hooper for an easy tap-in.
MacDonald then had to move swiftly down to his right-hand post to parry a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick from 25 yards at the expense of a corner which the wobbling visitors survived.
Hearts boss Paulo Sergio replaced Mehdi Taouil with Denis Prychynenko with only 25 minutes gone in order to stabilise to his midfield.
But it was all too easy for Celtic and in the 39th minute Hooper completed his hat-trick when he slammed the ball past MacDonald from the spot after Novikovas had tripped Parkhead midfielder Joe Ledley in the box.
Novikovas was replaced by Jason Holt for the start of the second-half but Celtic quickly reasserted themselves and within a couple of minutes wing-back Adam Matthews cut in from the right to send a low drive past MacDonald but into the side netting.
When Commons, back to his best form in recent weeks and influential again, flighted an inviting free-kick across the Jambos six-yard box in the 53rd minute it only needed a touch to make it four but there were no takers.
On the hour mark, as the Celtic fans rejoiced in the troubles of administration-hit Old Firm rivals Rangers, a mistake by Loovens allowed Templeton in at the edge of the Celtic boss but his curled shot, the visitors first real attempt at goal, slipped past the far post.
In the 66th minute Hooper grabbed number four when Zaliukas stretched but failed to cut out a Commons pass, allowing the rampant Parkhead striker to calmly round MacDonald before knocking the ball into the net.
Immediately after the goal Beram Kayal got a huge ovation when he came on for Celtic skipper Scott Brown, the Israel midfielder making his first appearance since December after recovering from an ankle injury. Paddy McCourt then replaced Ledley.
It was not the performance Hearts were looking for ahead of next week’s cup final and there was more pain to come.
Stokes replaced Commons with nine minutes remaining but by then the tempo had, unsurprisingly, gone out of the game.
However, in the 87th minute Hooper went nap when he converted a Samaras cross from a couple of yards out with the Jambos defence posted missing again and the title-winning celebrations began in earnest.