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Unstoppable Celtic go through season unbeaten

Celtic’s manager Brendan Rogers, pictured in November 2016 © AFP/File / Andy Buchanan

GLASGOW, United Kingdom, May 21 – Celtic became the first Scottish Premiership club to go unbeaten through a 38-game season when they defeated Hearts 2-0 on Sunday to win the league by a mammoth 30 points.

Second-half goals by Leigh Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong ensured they didn’t slip up on the last day, as Celtic ended up with a record of played 38, won 34 and drew four.

The unbeaten feat was last achieved in Scotland by arch-rivals Rangers in 1898-99, over an 18-game season, and Celtic join the likes of Arsenal (2003-04) and Juventus (2011-12) in being “invincible” during a domestic campaign.

Celtic plundered 106 goals and under former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers can seal a domestic treble — their first since 2001 — next Saturday if they beat Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final.

Celtic, who were presented with the Premiership trophy for the sixth time in a row, set a new points record of 106 — their nearest “challengers” were Aberdeen, way back on 76.

“It is a monumental achievement by the players. They have inscribed their names into the history of this incredible club now,” said Rodgers.

“We had to work hard and to beat the goals record and the wins record means it’s a truly fantastic day.”

Before the match an emotional tribute was paid to Celtic’s 1967 European Cup winning side — affectionately known as the Lisbon Lions — and by kick-off the noise reverberating around Celtic Park was deafening.

Celtic started brightly, Griffiths curling a free-kick into the side netting before a fierce effort from Kieran Tierney dipped just over the bar.

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However, it was Hearts who came closest to an opener midway through the half.

Jozo Simunovic’s foul handed the visitors a free-kick on the edge of the box, which was rolled into the path of Alexandros Tziolis and his angled strike flew narrowly over.

A Callum McGregor long-range strike drew a save from Viktor Noring before the Hearts ‘keeper made a superb stop to keep Dedryck Boyata’s point-blank effort out after the defender connected with a Griffiths corner.

Celtic had scored in every domestic fixture under Rodgers so it seemed inevitable they would eventually break Hearts’ resolve.

The breakthrough came five minutes after the break.

On-loan Manchester City star Patrick Roberts, unstoppable on the right wing, drifted past a couple of Hearts defenders before lofting a cross into the box, where Scottish striker Griffiths applied the finishing touch as he sent a downward header bouncing into the net.

The pair combined again moments later with Griffiths this time taking a pass from the English winger on the chest before firing into the side netting.

Celtic set a new goal-scoring record in the 75th minute as Armstrong doubled their advantage.

Griffiths’ cross was cut out by the Hearts defence but it only went as far as Armstrong, who lifted his shot high into the net to put more gloss on a record-breaking season.

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On Saturday, Inverness Caledonian Thistle were relegated to the Championship despite their 3-2 win over Motherwell after Hamilton’s 4-0 win over Dundee ensured they will face Dundee United in the play-off final.

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