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Celtic put the pressure on Rangers with a comfortable win over Hearts

Kyogo Furuhashi hit his first double of the season as Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hearts kept alive the prospect of a title celebration against Rangers.

The Japanese forward was on target twice in the first quarter and Matt O’Riley converted a late penalty as the Premier League leaders moved six points and eight goals clear of Rangers, who host Kilmarnock on Sunday.

Anything less than a Rangers victory against Ayrshire would give Celtic the chance to clinch a third straight title when they host their city rivals next Saturday.

Even if Rangers were to beat Kilmarnock, a derby win for Brendan Rodgers’ side would leave them on the brink of Championship success and they warmed up for the biggest game of the season with an impressive display at a noisy Celtic Park.

A series of saves from Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark prevented Celtic from further consolidating their goal difference advantage.

Hearts had won the previous two meetings between the teams, but Celtic were at full strength for the first time this season after Daizen Maeda recovered from a hamstring injury to take his place on the bench.

The visitors gave their best in the opening phase and came close to taking a lead from the first minute.

Lawrence Shankland looked certain to score after Dexter Lembikisa’s cut-back, but Cameron Carter-Vickers threw himself in the way of the striker’s attempt to divert the ball behind for a corner.

The home side took the lead in the fourth minute after Clark smashed O’Riley’s corner to the edge of the penalty area. Reo Hatate threw the ball back into the goal mouth, so that Furuhashi nodded home.

Although Shankland had retreated to the line, there was a close VAR check for offside as Clark was initially ahead of the Celtic striker when Hatate collected the ball.

Hearts were soon racing again as Joe Hart produced a brilliant one-handed stop from Cammy Devlin’s volley and Carter-Vickers headed just over as the end-to-end action continued.

Celtic doubled their lead in the 21st minute after O’Riley slotted a ball over the visiting defense. Furuhashi cushioned a volley with his weaker right foot into the bottom corner of the net.

Celtic finished the half strongly with Clark making saves from Greg Taylor, O’Riley and Furuhashi, each better than the last.

The leaders picked up where they left off after the break with Clark making a double stop from Hatate and O’Riley before James Forrest went close twice.

The noise from the home fans increased as Celtic looked to increase their goal difference, and sliding tackles from Callum McGregor and Furuhashi as they returned led to ovations not far from what had greeted the goals.

Hearts had one chance in the second half but Hart rose to make a last-ditch stop from Yutaro Oda after the Japanese forward played a one-two with fellow substitute Scott Fraser.

O’Riley struck an 87th-minute penalty into the top corner after Shankland was penalized for handball after referee Kevin Clancy was called to his monitor.

Substitute Maeda was denied by Clark from close range and the Green Brigade supporters declared themselves “impatient for the coming fight” with a banner that provoked chants of “bring on the Rangers” in the closing stages.

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