Brendan Rodgers’ 69-match unbeaten run as Celtic manager in Scottish domestic football is over, after his side took a beating away to Hearts. David Milinkovic shined as he scored two goals in a 4-0 win for the Jambos at Tynecastle.
The hosts started brighter, with the first shot of the match coming on 11 minutes, as Ross Callachan fired over the bar from just outside the area.
Forrest got down Celtic’s right to create their first real opportunity of the match, but his cutback for Griffiths saw the former Hibs striker lose his footing as the chance went abegging.
Jambos captain Christophe Berra flashed a header across goal from a corner, before, the best chance of the match to date occurred. It was Forrest who linked up with Griffiths again and the forward this time got a good shot in, but it was only the side-netting he could find.
Just three minutes later and it was one-nil to the hosts. Harry Cochrane received a pass from Don Cowie on the right-side of the penalty area. The 16-year-old took a touch to set himself before firing home from 18-yards with his left foot.
Craig Levein’s side took the impetus after this with David Milinkovic seeing his effort from close-range being saved by Craig Gordon. However, the former Hearts shot-stopper couldn’t thwart his old club ten minutes before the break.
Callum McGregor was caught in possession on the half-way line; Milinkovic broke forward and found Lafferty on the right. 20-yards-out the striker fired low and hard past Gordon, as the ball hit the inside of the post before going in.
Leigh Griffiths saw a shot blocked by Michael Smith late on in the first-half, but, there was no clear sighting of goal for the Hoops in the opening half.
A blistering start to the match by the Tynecastle outfit, who really rocked Brendan Rodgers’ side. This forced the former Liverpool manager into changes at the interval.
Kieran Tierney and Oliver Ntcham were sacrificed to be replaced by Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong, as the Celts went three at the back.
The new formation wasn’t to aid the visitors early on in the second half, however. With just three minutes gone in the final period, a long ball over the top caught Simunovic out, which allowed Milinkovic in on goal. Gordon came out to the edge of his own area, but that made no difference as the attacker shimmied his way round the goalkeeper as he stayed composed to find the back of the net despite the best efforts of Lustig to put him off.
Stuart Armstrong then had an effort saved by Jon McLaughlin as the goalkeeper was put to work for the first time during the match. He was quick to pull off another save, denying Griffiths with a fantastic save as the Scotland international looked set to pull a goal back.
Scott Sinclair was next to have a pop at goal but the Englishman was well off-target with this attempt as the hosts came under pressure with 60 minutes on the clock.
Celtic made their final change, as they brought on a third forward. Odsonne Edouard came on for McGregor. Hearts made their first change at this point, too. Prince Bauben picked up a knock and was replaced by Kirkcaldy-born 16-year-old Anthony McDonald.
Dembele made a strong run into the area from the left-hand-side but was forced wide of goal, so, when he did get his shot in it was blocked: to compound things for the away side, it deflected back off the Frenchman as it went out for a goal-kick.
An injury would force Lafferty to be replaced by the Edinburgh outfit with just under twenty minutes to go; Cole Stockton, signed in the summer from Tranmere Rovers, entered the filed of play in place of the Northern Irishman.
Before the match, questions were asked of Hearts; who would replace the injured Jamie Walker? Well, it was answered this afternoon by Milinkovic. He sent Callachan away, who got let down by a poor touch as he entered the area, but, he was taken out by Gordon and a penalty was given.
The Serbian midfielder, who was born in France, stood up himself to take the penalty, with the winger calmly slotting the ball to the right-hand side of the goal to put Hearts in easy-street. Despite Gordon going the right way, he couldn’t make amends for his error.
The Hoops continued to probe the hosts defence as the looked for a consolation. Armstrong struck from 25-yards out but McLaughlin was up to the task once again.
The final substitution of the afternoon saw Ross Callachan replaced in the centre of the park by Polish utility man Rafal Grzelak with just five minutes of normal time remaining.
A mix-up between Connor Randall and Michael Smith presented Edouard with an opportunity but the substitute dragged his effort across goal and wide. Moussa Dembele also had a snap-shot from the edge of the area as Hearts failed to clearly full once more but the shot lacked accuracy, power and precision as it dribbled well-wide of target.
As the game entered four minutes of added time, Griffiths found space at the edge of the area but he shot straight at McLaughlin as the game came to a close.
Sinclair had a chance inside the area deep into stoppage time but his right-footed shot from the left was blocked by stand-in centre-back Smith.
It was a crushing defeat by Hearts against the Scottish champions. It has set the bar high for the remainder of the season for Craig Levein’s side, while, it gives Brendan Rodgers and his staff something new to think about, as the Hoops suffer their first domestic defeat in 70 matches.
FULL-TIME: Heart of Midlothian 4-0 Celtic
1. Jon McLaughlin
16. Connor Randall
2. Michael Smith
6. Christophe Berra (Captain)
30. Jamie Brandon
8. Prince Bauben (Anthony McDonald 67′)
15. Don Cowie
20. Ross Callachan (Rafal Grzelak 85′)
47. Harry Cochrane
9. Kyle Lafferty (Cole Stockton 72′)
11. David Milinkovic
13. Jack Hamilton (GK)
5. Aaron Hughes
23. Cole Stockton
27. Rafal Grzelak
46. Anthony McDonald
52.. Aidan Keena
77. Esmael Goncalves
1. Craig Gordon
23. Mikael Lustig
5. Jozo Simunovic
20. Dedryck Boyata
63. Kieran Tierney (Moussa Dembele 45′)
8. Scott Brown (Captain)
21. Oliver Ntcham (Stuart Armstrong 45′)
42. Callum McGregor (Odsonne Edouard 68′)
49. James Forrest
9. Leigh Griffiths
11. Scott Sinclair
24. Dorus De Vries (GK)
10. Moussa Dembele
14. Stuart Armstrong
15. Jonny Hayes
22. Odsonne Edouard
35. Kristoffer Ajer
88. Eboue Kouassi
Referee: Willie Collum