Celtic returned to the top of the Scottish Premier League on Sunday after a comfortable 2-0 win over Hearts .

The reigning champions scored two goals in the first 20 minutes - through Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell - to give them breathing space and could even afford to miss a penalty through Paul Hartley as they re-established their three-point lead over Rangers, though their bitter rivals have a game in hand.

Maloney opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a powerful volley from German Andreas Hinkel's free-kick.  A goalmouth scramble in the 20th minute saw Caldwell bundle the ball into the net from a Hartley corner.

However Hartley, a former Hearts stalwart, blotted his copybook six minutes into the second-half when he hit the penalty wide of the Hearts goal after Marius Zaliukas had been red-carded for a foul on Celtic's Australian striker Scott McDonald.

Celtic handler Gordon Strachan was satisfied with the victory and the attitude of his players, who have a rather more intimidating date this week against Manchester United in the Champions League.

"It wasn't cosmic football, but it's a different style of game when you come here," said the former Southampton manager. "When it gets down to 10 men, the game's dead, and we could come down a couple of gears, similar to what Man United did to us. When you get two or three goals up you can relax and be more comfortable."