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12 May 2011

Celtic ensured the Scottish title race will go to the final day with a win over Hearts overshadowed by an attack by a fan on visiting boss Neil Lennon.

Gary Hooper had just slotted in his second goal of the night when a man emerged from the Tynecastle stand to aim a punch at Lennon.

Hooper struck after 12 minutes before David Obua was sent off and added his second four minutes after the break.

Kris Commons was sent off after celebrating a fine 78th-minute finish.

And the win means Celtic are a point behind leaders and holders Rangers ahead of Sunday's final round of games.

Celtic had gone into what was always going to be a potentially fiery encounter knowing that a defeat would hand the title to their Glasgow rivals.

Lennon sprang a surprise in central defence, restoring Glenn Loovens in place of Thomas Rogne, with Charlie Mulgrew moving up into midfield in place of James Forrest as the Celtic manager perhaps anticipated a bit of a battle.

The pre-match build-up had been given added spice by hints from Lennon that teams, including Hearts, had been less than competitive against title rivals Rangers in recent weeks.

Although Lennon denied he had suggested that Hearts had not been trying, it was predicted that the remarks would provide extra motivation for Jim Jefferies, his side and their fans.

However, with Dundee United's defeat by Rangers ensuring that Hearts will finish third, three points meant less for the Tynecastle men and it was Celtic who were first to every ball from kick off.

Daniel Majstorovic, Hooper and Georgios Samaras, who had started ahead of Daryl Murphy up front, all threatened as the ball bounced dangerously around the home penalty box.

Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas was back in central defence, along with Ismael Bouzid, after being left out against Rangers following instructions from Hearts majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

The return of their first-choice central defensive pairing should have strengthened the home side, but it was a mistake by the Lithuanian international that handed Celtic the lead.

Zaliukas was dispossessed by Kris Commons as he looked to spray the ball upfield and the Scotland winger fed it perfectly into the path of Hooper for a simple, low finish past Marian Kello.

The inclusion of the goalkeeper, who had also been left out recently for mysterious "personal reasons", and striker Stephen Elliot had Hearts close to full strength.

Celtic, though, were making them look like a side that had not won a league match since 19 February and Commons twice in quick succession came close to extending the lead.

The winger's 18-yard drive was pushed superbly on to a post by Kello and, when the ball was turned back into the six-yard box by Mark Wilson, it deflected off the former Derby man's shin and flew a foot wide of the unguarded net.

Ian Black had been lucky to escape a red card for an earlier two-footed challenge on Samaras, but team-mate Obua could perhaps count himself unfortunate to be given his marching orders.

Mulgrew had stuck his elbow forceably into the Uganda utility man's chest and, although the Hearts player barely brushed his opponents' hairline with a flailing arm, the assistant referee ruled that he had lifted his hand in retaliation.

Celtic virtually ended the game as a contest in the opening minutes of the second half.

Ki Sung-Yeung wriggled his way to the edge of the box and set up Hooper for a clinical, low finish with the outside of his foot.

As the Celtic fans celebrated, one man advanced from the stands and appeared to aim a punch at Lennon before being hauled away by security.

The Celtic manager looked stunned before a smile eventually returned to his face as Commons fired a powerful 25-yard drive just wide.

Commons had another drive beaten away by Kello before Bouzid provided Hearts' first threat with a backward header that looped just wide after 62 minutes.

The match finished in further controversy when Commons found the net with a long-range effort before being sent off after picking up a second yellow card for rushing into the crowd to celebrate.


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