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<-Page <-Team Mon 13 Nov 2006 Falkirk 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Daily Record ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Eduard Malofeev <-auth Gary Ralston auth-> Mike McCurry
[R Latapy 84]
8 of 008 Andrius Velicka 65 L SPL A


No Elvis and Hartley on bench but Vlad's revenge backfires as Latapy nicks point
By Gary Ralston

ELVIS has left the building - and stand-in boss Eduard Malofeev took leave of his senses as Hearts were denied second spot in the SPL.

Falkirk snatched a dramatic, and deserved, late equaliser via Russell Latapy as controversy swirled around Hearts like the winter gale that lashed Westfield last night.

Off the field, skipper Steven Pressley walked out before the match as the emotional toll of holding the Hearts team together finally took its toll.

Inside the ground, Malofeev faces an SFA rap amid accusations he manhandled fourth official John McKendrick as he protested Latapy's strike.

Malofeev was bundled up the tunnel by his backroom staff after a angry touchline clash with ref Mike McCurry, conducted via interpreter Alex Koslovski.

It was a dramatic end to another fascinating day in the life of Hearts, who looked on their way to leapfrogging Rangers when Andrius Velicka fired them in front in 64 minutes.

Not only did Pressley walk out, Paul Hartley was also benched and didn't even touch the ball when he came on in the closing seconds of the game.

But Falkirk merited the point, although goal machine Anthony Stokes drew a blank for the first time in six matches in front of watching Sunderland manager Roy Keane.

The Hearts line-up read like a world-class Scrabble score but, of course, it was the absence of Pressley's name from the team sheet that drew most attention.

Hearts fans chanted their skipper's name, as well as that of Hartley, but only after an impeccably observed minute's silence by both sets of supporters to mark the Armistice - take note St Mirren and Celtic.

Malofeev made five changes to the side that flopped in the CIS Cup quarter-final against Hibs.

The most high-profile casualty was Hartley, benched apparently because his performance at Easter Road was not up to scratch - with no concession made for the fact he was played out of position as support striker to Velicka.

This isn't so much squad rotation as a squad in danger of spinning out of control under an ever-changing coterie of coaches, with Kaunas boss Eugenijus Riabovas set to step in as caretaker to interim boss Malofeev, who is set to depart for eastern Europe on business relating to his lack of a formal UEFA coaching qualification.

Nevertheless, the Jambos started brightest as they tried to leapfrog Rangers and claim second spot again in the SPL.

They almost took the lead in seven minutes when Bruno Aguiar floated over a free-kick from the right and Velicka rose powerfully to nod an effort towards goal from six yards but Dutch keeper Jeroen Lambers brilliantly touched his effort over.

Fans' favourite Julien Brellier was running the show in the centre of midfield with Aguiar while, for once, Russell Latapy was struggling to make an impact as the rain swirled in from the Forth.

The Grangemouth refinery was lit up like a scene from Mad Max but there was little in the Bairns performance that was as illuminating.

Mind you, home hopes were hardly helped when Jack Ross limped off early with a thigh strain and was replaced by Aussie Karl Dodd, who must have felt an awful long way from Bondi Beach as the rain dropped on the scene harder than a credit card bill in the second week of January.

Still, Hearts continued to control the action and Aguiar sent over another excellent delivery nodded just wide by Greek star Christos Karipidis.

Hartley was given a rapturous reception as he warmed up in front of the Hearts fans and they almost had an opener to cheer midway through the first half when Velicka again came close.

This time he was picked out by Saulius Mikoliunas from the left and although his low header from eight yards was on target, Lambers was well positioned to push it to safety.

Christophe Berra, skipper in the absence of Pressley, went close from another pinpoint Aguiar delivery before Falkirk finally broke into the Hearts defence.

Skipper Steven Thomson seized on a poor clearance from Marius Zaliukas and Craig Gordon needed two attempts to gather his low volley as it skidded on the sodden turf. Suddenly the Bairns sensed a vulnerability and Anthony Stokes should really have opened the scoring nine minutes from the break when he was picked out at the back post by Alan Gow but, for once, his aim was off as he nodded straight at Gordon.

Gow almost went from provider to scorer moments later when he danced forward from midfield and let rip with a drive from 25 yards that whizzed narrowly over the top.

Kenny Milne almost gifted Hearts the opener within 60 seconds of the re-start when he was slack with a pass that was played into the path of Aguiar by Nerijus Barasa.

However, the effort from the Portuguese midfielder slipped wide as Lambers scrambled to cover his left-hand post.

Soon after it was Gordon's turn to look alert again when he beat away a free-kick by Latapy after the playmaker had been hauled down on the fringes of the box by Brellier.

McCurry, who was having a good game, was forced to reach for yellow cards as both sides swapped bookings, with Thomas Scobbie and Aguiar falling foul of the official.

It was the last involvement of the game for impressive young full-back Scobbie, who left the field in 62 minutes with Stephen O'Donnell as Yogi Hughes introduced Marc Twaddle and Liam Craig.

However, Hearts drew first blood two minutes later with a goal from nothing as Lambers, rock solid until then, erred badly.

Velicka cut in from the left and although his low, right-foot effort from 25 yards was well enough struck, the keeper went down like a slow puncture and allowed the ball to pass into the net at his right-hand post.

It was the Lithuanian's sixth goal of the season but Falkirk almost equalised moments later when Gordon needed two attempts to hold a low drive, this time from sub Craig, as Gow and Thomson prepared to pounce.

Lambers made amends of sorts in 74 minutes when a lapse of concentration by Twaddle allowed in Jamie Mole but the keeper blocked the striker's effort with his chest and the Hearts striker was replaced by Juho Makela moments later.

Falkirk came close 10 minutes from time when Stokes burst into the box but his goalbound effort was blocked by Berra.

Latapy then cut in from the right and fired in a left-foot shot Gordon brilliantly touched round a post and the Scotland star was again on the spot from the resulting corner to block the combined efforts of Stokes and Twaddle inside the six-yard box.

However, he was helpless seven minutes from time when Falkirk snatched a dramatic and deserved equaliser.

Gow brilliantly ghosted in from the left and slipped the ball into the path of Latapy, who guided a precision shot low past Gordon from 18 yards.

The goal provoked delight among Bairns fans - and a storm of protest from the Hearts bench as Malofeev was ordered to the stand for complaining amid claims he manhandled the fourth official.

He was involved in an angry discussion on the touchline with McCurry via interpreter Koslovski but went too far and was bundled up the tunnel by his backroom staff.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Andrius Velicka (Hearts)


Jerome Lambers 6 Produced two outstanding saves from Velicka but at fault for opener.

Jack Ross 2 Limped off with a thigh strain in early stages.

Darren Barr 7 Defender just improves with every performance.

Kenny Milne 6 Solid and dependable but almost cost his side a goal with moment of slackness.

Thomas Scobbie 6 Booked for foul on Barasa before being substituted after 60 minutes.

Russell Latapy 8 Ex-Hibee showed some lovely touches and scored lovely goal,

Patrick Cregg 7 Is fast becoming an accomplished SPL midfielder.

Steven Thomson 7 Captain played his part in snuffing out the Jambos.

Stephen O'Donnell 6 Held his own in the physical side of game.

Alan Gow 7 Fired in two decent efforts at Craig Gordon in opening period.

Anthony Stokes 6 Bairns goal machine missed absolute sitter when he headed straight at Gordon.

Subs Karl Dodd: Struggled to get into game, 5. Mark Twaddle: On for Scobbie, 4. Liam Craig: Gave ball away for opener, 4.


Craig Gordon 8 Coped with everything that Falkirk flung at him until Latapy struck.

Marius Zaliukas 6 The Lithuanian has still to convince that he is the real deal.

Nerijius Barassa 5 Deployed on the right hand side of midfield but was not involved in the proceedings.

Bruno Aguiar 6 Portuguese midfielder delivered some wicked set-piece deliveries.

Saulius Mikoliunas 6 Possesses decent skills and started brightly but faded.

Christophe Berra 6 Stand-in skipper for the evening missed clear goalscoring opportunity.

Lee Wallace 6 Tried to go forward at every opportunity to support attackers.

Christos Karipidis 5 Fourth start of the season for Greek defender but was largely anonymous.

Andrius Velicka 8 Strong running troubled Falkirk rearguard all evening and opened the scoring.

Julien Brellier 6 French contract rebel given rare start and was tentative.

Jamie Mole 7 Was causing Falkirk defence no end of problems.

Subs: Juho Makela: On for Mole, 3. Paul Hartley: Flung on in injury time, 1.

Taken from the Daily Record

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