McGeady and Petrov ensure Celtic end year at top of the tree

Hearts 0 Celtic 2

Goals from Aiden McGeady and Stilian Petrov were enough to beat Hearts 2-0 at Tynecastle and the home side knew they could have suffered an even heavier defeat.

The result allowed the champions to open up a four-point lead that Rangers will be aiming to reduce to just one by beating Motherwell at Ibrox today.

Celtic midfielder Stilian Petrov scored the second goal of the game in the 69th minute to clinch the points. But the Bulgaria international conceded his ‘cross’ to find Aiden McGeady for the ninth-minute opener had not been planned.

Petrov said: “To be honest, I tried to take a shot but fortunately Aiden was there to score. We always knew it was going to be hard against Hearts and we concentrated from the start to score an early goal to calm our nerves.

“It is always good to be top of the league. It is not a big gap so we will just try to keep winning and see what happens.”

However, despite going into 2005 as SPL leaders, the midfielder admits it would be a boost if manager Martin O’Neill was allowed to bring in a new player or two in the transfer window next month.

Celtic boss O’Neill joked that McGeady has targeted a ranking alongside the world player of the year Ronaldinho after another impressive display for the Hoops.

The 18-year-old returned to the scene of his goalscoring debut last April and struck again early on against the Jambos.

O’Neill said: “Young McGeady is having a wonderful time of it. He got a bit tired as he does in games but he does an incredible amount of work for us on and off the ball. He is learning that particular side of the game to decent effect. Obviously, that will take a bit longer.

“But his ability on the ball is without question. He is growing in confidence.

“He is very hard on himself and came in after the game feeling he has not done as well as he possibly could.

“I think he thinks he should be alongside Ronaldinho just at this minute! But he is doing wonderfully well for us.”

But O’Neill was simply pleased to have won again.

He added: “I was delighted with the performance and the result. It is a difficult place to come and Hearts put their heart and soul into games. I thought we deserved to win the game and we created some great chances.

“We couldn’t finish the game off until Stilian Petrov scored a wonder goal but, by that time, we should probably have been out of sight.

“But I’m very pleased to have won. It takes us to the new year still in front and that is a great boost.”

Hearts head coach John Robertson admits the delay surrounding the takeover of the club has left him in “no-man’s land” in his attempts to keep players at Tynecastle. Prospective new owner Vladimir Romanov had been expected to take over the ownership of the Edinburgh club earlier this month but that deal has been put back to February.

Now, after the defeat by Celtic at Tynecastle, the Jambos’ boss concedes his hands are tied for new deals.

HEARTS: Gordon, Neilson, McKenna, Pressley, Maybury, Stewart (MacFarlane 12), Stamp, Hartley, McAllister (Weir 73), de Vries, Wyness (Hamill 57).

CELTIC: Douglas, McNamara, Balde, Varga, Laursen, Petrov, Lennon, Thompson, McGeady, Hartson, Sutton.

Referee: M McCurry (Scotland).

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