London Hearts Supporters Club

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Craig Levein <-auth None auth-> Mike McCurry
[U de la Cruz 1] ;[U de la Cruz 26]
2 of 004 Stephen Simmons 64 L SPL A

De la Cruz’s derby double

A FOG descended on Hearts long before the one which, for a period of the second half, threatened to deny Hibs a victory that had promised to be embarrassingly convincing. That Alex McLeish’s side should win this latest renewal of the Edinburgh derby by the minimum margin was due in part to the visitors’ spirit, but primarily to the onset of a curious apprehension in the home players.

From the moment Ulises de la Cruz scored the first of his two goals with just 36 seconds played, the Tynecastle players, until midway through the second half, looked like men groping their way through a thick mist, utterly without a sense of direction and seemingly lacking the will to save themselves.

The goal from Stephen Simmons which reduced the leeway gave Craig Levein’s side encouragement which had previously seemed unlikely, but the closeness of the finish should not be allowed to obliterate the fact that Hibs, with the majority of the good players on show, were overall the better side by a considerable distance.

Until Stevie Fulton replaced Andy Webster early in the second half and began playing some accurate passes, Hearts had nobody who came close to the intelligent and perceptive play of Grant Brebner and John O’Neil in the Hibs midfield, and certainly nobody with the pace of De la Cruz and Alen Orman on the right of the home side.

Even in a middle-distance race, a tardy start can prove to be irrecoverably damaging. Hearts were left the equivalent of ten lengths by the astonishing first of De la Cruz’s goals and Hibs, immediately seizing on the potential of their advantage, thereafter ensured a relentless pace which gave their rivals little hope of urging themselves back into contention.

The quick movement, crisp and precise passing and alertness in the tackle of the Easter Road side during that first half would be as impressive as either set of supporters will have seen in this fixture in many years, including during Hibs’ 6-2 victory exactly a year ago.

While that much-celebrated performance was ultimately overwhelming, it did not contain the sustained excellence of yesterday’s demonstration and during their ascendancy Hearts were fortunate not to fall further than two goals behind. The Tynecastle side may have believed that Porto had come to Easter Road, so similar to Celtic’s thrashing in the Estadio das Antas was their own plight.

Like the Portuguese, Hibs’ only flaw was in their finishing. While De la Cruz scored a marvellous first goal and followed up with a virtual tap-in, he ruined the most breathtaking move of that first half when he ran clear on an exceptional pass from O’Neil. The little midfielder swept the ball left-footed from 20 yards inside his own half and wide on the left to the Ecuadorean on the far right, but De la Cruz, having pulled the ball inside the challenging Simmons and, with unmarked team-mates howling for service, drove it against Antti Niemi and away for a corner kick.

He was readily forgiven by a support who could scarcely believe the brilliance of his opener. It was Alen Orman who provided the supply, pushing the ball forward to De la Cruz on the right. The wing-back, a few yards outside the right corner of the penalty area, left-footed his curling shot high to the right of Niemi, the ball dropping just under the bar at the far corner.

Nobody will ever complete a double more easily than De la Cruz, who had only to push the ball over the line from two yards after Paco Luna had received O’Neil’s pass on the left, taken the ball to the by-line and watched his chip deflected straight to the feet of his team-mate.

Hearts, by comparison, were sluggish almost to the point of immobility. At times seeming paralysed by dread of what may happen next, their challenges were soft, their passing lacked conviction and they appeared incapable of competing with the pace at which the home side went about their work.

Unsurprisingly, Levein started pulling strings in the second half, putting on Fulton for Webster and withdrawing Scott Severin from midfield into defence. He also replaced the ineffective Stephane Adam with Kevin McKenna in an attempt to upset home defenders who, until then, had been largely untroubled. Thriving on the long, high ball, McKenna caused one or two upsets, but even if Hearts spent more time than before in their opponents’ territory, it was Hibs who contrived the better chances, breaking at speed into threatening areas.

Tom McManus had replaced Craig Brewster as early as the 39th minute, the big striker having been cautioned and exposed himself to the risk of an ordering-off by committing several fouls thereafter.

Levein complained afterwards about one tackle on Severin which might have brought a second caution, but omitted any mention of Ricardo Fuller’s deliberate hand-ball - the referee gave the free kick against him, but took no further action - after he had been yellow-carded for a foul on Orman.

The improbably close finish was ensured by Simmons’s terrific strike, the young midfielder drilling the ball right-footed from 15 yards to the left of Nick Colgan after Juanjo’s cross, from a short corner kick, had been deflected towards him by Franck Sauzee.

McManus would squander a much more convertible opportunity near the finish - shanking the ball from inside the penalty area on the left to the far touchline after being released by O’Neil with only Niemi to beat - confirming the general impression that Hibs should have won much more comfortably.

The Teams:

Hibernian: Colgan, Sauzee, I Murray, Fenwick, Laursen, Orman, De la Cruz, O’Neil, Brebner, Brewster, Luna.

Hearts:Niemi, Maybury, Pressley, Webster, Mahe, Adam, Juanjo, Flogel, Severin, Simmons, Fuller.

Taken from

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