Heart of Midlothian travelled to Celtic Park looking to record a third successive win over Brendan Rodgers' title-chasing side but were left with a mountain to climb after falling 2-0 behind early on.

Kyogo Furuhashi struck twice within the opening 21 minutes before a Matt O'Riley penalty five minutes from time - awarded after Lawrence Shankland handball in the box - sealed the 3-0 win for Celtic.

James Cairney offers his take on the defeat.

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Fine margins

Steven Naismith said before kick-off that these games often come down to the fine margins, and the head coach was proved right within the opening three minutes in Glasgow’s east end. Almost straight from kick-off, Dexter Lembikisa advanced menacingly into the box and cut the ball back for Shankland, only for O’Riley and Cameron Carter-Vickers to hurl themselves in front of the ball as it was deflected wide for a corner. Celtic, meanwhile, won their first corner of the game on three minutes and although the initial delivery into the box was cleared, the ball only made it as far as Reo Hatate on the dee. The midfielder hooked it back in the box for Furuhashi to instinctively nod the ball home from close range. Initially it looked like the goal would be chopped off for offside – Furuhashi drifted in from behind Zander Clark – but subsequent television replays showed that the Hearts goalie’s trailing leg was playing the Celtic striker on by the narrowest of margins. There can’t have been any more than a few centimetres in it, but it was enough to give Brendan Rodgers’ side a dream start to the game. Now the question was: how would Hearts respond?

Clinical Celtic

Initially, quite well actually. Hearts had some good spells of possession and worked the ball into promising areas, while the defence were keeping the Celtic attackers at bay. Only an excellent stop from Joe Hart prevented Cammy Devlin from restoring parity with a stabbed finish on 11 minutes, and the team were steadily accruing corner kicks. It looked like the team had responded well, until a moment of real quality from O’Riley unlocked the Hearts defence. The Denmark internationalist lofted a wonderful through ball from deep that Furuhashi latched onto with an expertly-timed run, and the striker’s first-time finish gave Clark little chance of stopping it. Frankie Kent, however, could have been more aware of Celtic’s talismanic striker. Hearts had only given up two chances and enjoyed more of the ball within the opening 21 minutes, and yet they were two goals down. The game had a more familiar feel thereafter – the hosts started bossing possession and forcing Hearts ever deeper – and forays into the final third became rarer and rarer for the men in maroon. The title race meant this was always going to be an opportunity to frustrate the home crowd, but that chance was spurned by falling 2-0 behind so early on. Confidence seeped out from the fans in the stands and the players on the park – and Celtic took full control. Hearts barely even mounted another attack before the break and it was clear that unless something changed, this would be a long afternoon.

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Superb Clark

Little changed after the break. Hearts struggled to beat Celtic's high press and fashion anything of note as the home side controlled possession. Truthfully, the final scoreline would have been more emphatic were it not for Zander Clark. The Scotland internationalist found himself tested regularly by Celtic, and he passed with flying colours. He could do little about any of the goals, and twice denied O'Riley with some excellent stops in the first half. The pick of the bunch would arrive 10 minutes into the second half, though. Furuhashi seemed certain to grab his hat-trick when he fired at goal from Hatate's cut-back, but Clark got down superbly to deny him. The ball then fell to Hatate but - somehow - there was Clark once more, batting it behind for a corner. It was a remarkable double-save that encapsulated his afternoon, and the goalie's performance was surely the highlight of a tough afternoon.

Three games, no goals

Scott Fraser and Nathaniel Atkinson replaced Grant and Lembikisa around the hour mark (the less said about Atkinson’s off-the-pace display, the better), but it wasn’t until the 72nd minute that Naismith decided to roll the dice and go for broke. Barrie McKay and Yutaro Oda were introduced in place of Stephen Kingsley and Cammy Devlin, and the shape was changed to a 4-4-2. The gambit almost paid off instantly when Fraser slipped Oda through for a 1v1 with Hart with a terrific pass, but the winger’s shot was straight at the Celtic keeper and easily repelled. Kyosuke Tagawa was given the final 10 minutes to make an impression, but Oda’s chance would be Hearts’ last of the game. Naismith’s side haven’t scored in their last three outings now – the team’s driest spell in front of goal since a three-game run back in August.

All eyes on Ibrox

A win would have wrapped up third and European group-stage football next season, but claiming a third consecutive win over Celtic for the first time in over 60 years was always going to be a tall order for Naismith and his players. In truth, tomorrow’s meeting between Kilmarnock and Rangers was always more likely to be definitive, and now Philippe Clement’s side have every incentive to claim the three points at Ibrox. Anything other than a Killie win will mathematically clinch third – and supporters can finally start adding some dates to their diaries in preparation for a European tour.