Heart of Midlothian travelled to Glasgow on Saturday in the hope of breaking a 63-year-old record by sealing a third successive win over Brendan Rodgers’ side and wrapping up third, thereby confirming European group-stage football next season. But Celtic put the men in maroon’s celebrations on hold.

A Kyogo Furuhashi goal after only three minutes left Hearts on the back foot, and the centre-forward’s second on 21 minutes left the visitors with a mountain to climb. A Matt O’Riley penalty kick five minutes from time removed any lingering doubt about the final scoreline, and Steven Naismith’s side returned to Gorgie empty-handed.

But was a 3-0 defeat a fair result? Could things have panned out differently? Let’s see what the data says.

READ MORE: Fine margins, dry spell, Clark heroics: Instant analysis as Hearts lose to Celtic

Strong start peters out

We’ll start with the xG. The racechart below shows the quality of chances created by either side as the game unfolded. Hearts finished the game with an xG of 0.57, while Celtic’s final tally stood at 2.38. According to StatsBomb, Hearts’ chances of victory therefore stood at four per cent; for Celtic, that figure was 86 per cent.

Naismith’s side did have chances though, particularly in the opening half hour. Lawrence Shankland’s blocked attempt on goal within the first minute (0.1), Cammy Devlin’s shot on goal on 11 minutes and from a narrow angle on 29 minutes (both 0.05), Stephen Kingsley’s header wide from a corner (0.05) – these were all good opportunities that could have ended up in the back of the net.

The problem, though, is that they then dried up. Hearts had just one shot from the 30th minute onwards – Yutaro Oda’s 1v1 with Joe Hart (0.32), where the winger could have done better – while at the other end, Celtic steadily racked up chance after chance. Most had a relatively low xG, but quantity has a quality all of its own.

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Shooting pains

Take a look at the shot map below that shows where Celtic’s efforts on goal were struck from. Grey denotes a blocked shot, blue indicates a low xG attempt and red is a high one, and the various shapes represent different types of opportunities. There’s a key at the bottom.

For the most part, Celtic’s shots were hit from inside the box and in central areas. There’s a variety of opportunities – some are blocked, some are saved – and through balls led to the best chances.

The map above shows Hearts’ chances, and they’re from good areas. But of the five shots on goal, Joe Hart was only called into action twice.

Had Shankland scored his cut-back from Dexter Lembikisa in the first minute, the game could have been very different. But take a look at the graphic below, which shows each player’s position when the ball was struck. The Hearts captain’s shot has to get past O’Riley and Cameron Carter-Vickers, both of whom are rapidly closing him down, and it still has to squeeze in between Alistair Johnston and Joe Hart. It’s the type of finish that Shankland is of course capable of, but it had to be near-perfect.

READ MORE: Eight Hearts stats and what they tell us about Steven Naismith's side


Corner kicks were a big feature of Sunday’s game. Hearts racked up eight in total, with almost all of them arriving in the opening half hour – but they didn’t make the most of them. Of the seven that were swung into the box, only one resulted in a shot on goal. Alex Cochrane took most of them, and finished the game with an xG generated from set-pieces of 0.06.

The first goal arrived via a corner but Hearts defended the rest pretty well. Barring a Carter-Vickers header at 1-0, the home side didn’t truly threaten Zander Clark’s goal from set-pieces. They had 17 in total and tended to bombard the six-yard box, but most were cut out.

READ MORE: Efficiency in possession and final third impact: Cammy Devlin's new role at Hearts

Pinned back

Hearts started strongly at Parkhead, enjoying the majority of the possession for the opening 25 minutes or so before Celtic started to exert more control after going 2-0 up. In the first half there were some nice passing moves from Naismith’s men to work the ball into dangerous areas; in the second, attacking forays into the final third were few and far between.

Take a look at the passing maps above. The one on the left shows the first half, while the one on the right shows the second (it gets a bit crowded due to substitutions but try to focus on the overall shape), and the lines indicate at least two passes between the players involved. Look at the first half – the team is lopsided, with Lembikisa pushing up on the right and linking with the forwards. Shankland and Kenneth Vargas are fairly advanced, while most of Devlin’s work on the ball was done very high up the park – although it should be noted that he didn’t see much of it, and didn’t link up regularly with any of his team-mates.

Then look at how it changes in the second. Everyone is sitting deeper, the forward players are isolated, and just look at Shankland – he’s effectively playing as a central midfielder.

Celtic piled bodies forward after 2-0 and Hearts simply couldn’t play out. Rodgers’ side pressed high up the park, and the end result was that attacking moves broke down before they got going. Take a look at the two teams’ pressing maps – almost all of Hearts’ pressing is done on the edge of their own box and down the right where Celtic focused their attacking play, while the home side’s forwards are applying pressure very high up.

All in all, it was an afternoon full of contradictions for Hearts. They were arguably the better team during the opening 20 minutes or so, but Celtic were in cruise control thereafter and worthy winners. Hearts had the chances to change the game, but also didn’t create anywhere near enough for the final hour or so of the match. They gave up a lot of shots and corner kicks, but, apart from the goals, the opportunities conceded weren’t especially clear-cut. Celtic were clinical when it mattered, Hearts weren’t – and the men in maroon paid the price.