London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sun 20 Oct 2002 Hearts 1 Celtic 4 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Alan Pattullo auth-> Kenny Clark
[C Sutton 3] ;[S Petrov 9] ;[H Larsson 37] ;[H Larsson 42]
1 of 002 Gary Wales 89 L SPL H

Celtic are better by half

ALAN PATTULLO at Tynecastle
Hearts 1 Wales (89)
Celtic 4 Sutton (3), Petrov (9), Larsson (37, 42)

Referee: K Clark. Attendance: 13,911

THE Tannoy man had tempted fate by reminding the spectators that the last two matches to be screened live from Tynecastle had seen an avalanche of goals. Six, in fact, on each occasion. By half-time yesterday a further four goals had been spilled, though for the home fans this was nothing like the outlandish extravagance of the second day of the season, when, with the television cameras in attendance, Mark de Vries inspired Hearts to a mesmerising 5-1 victory over Hibs.

This had more in common with the previous game between these two teams at Tynecastle, when Celtic inflicted a 4-1 defeat on the home side at the end of last season. Yesterday, Hearts were two goals down within ten minutes, and you feared for a team who, of all things, had included an 18-year-old debutant in their line-up. By half-time it was not fright which had taken control of their bodies, but a certain numbness. They surely won’t know whether to laugh or cry the next time this venue is chosen by the BBC to be the focus of such nationwide scrutiny.

David McGeown, the teenager with one unused substitute’s appearance to his name at this level, had not touched the ball by the time his side conceded the first goal, Chris Sutton turning sharply to rap a Steve Guppy free-kick into the net after only three minutes. Six minutes later a poor ball by Alan Maybury to the youngster had him stretching, only to lose possession to Stilian Petrov who began and then finished the move which had Hearts eyeing the kind of torrid afternoon Sundays were surely never made for.

McGeown, who received a kiss to the forehead from De Vries before kick-off, was requiring only a mother’s tender clutch by half-time. Playing on the right side of midfield and close enough to the home fans to feel their breath, McGeown can certainly not be blamed for any of this, though his manager might reflect on a certain misjudgment having tossed the youngster into this high-octane fixture, particularly with the marginally more-experienced Stephen Simmons sitting on the home bench.

In the event McGeown was replaced at half-time, but he is surely all the stronger for having lived through this. His team-mates and the home fans might not take such nourishment from the occasion. "It was a tough afternoon to ask him to step in and do a man’s job," admitted Hearts coach Craig Levein later. "We spoke at length about starting the game correctly," he continued, a ploy cast to the wind almost directly from kick-off. "Celtic are a good team and with their tail up are even better."

Amid all this early bedlam, Henrik Larsson had hardly claimed a touch. In the 35th minute we were witness to the most extraordinary sight. A neat Petrov back heel released Sutton and the Englishman provided a delightful cut-back which searched out Larsson, who then contrived to hoist the ball over keeper, bar and almost stand from four yards. Not his day you, along with many others, surmised. In true Larsson fashion, and no more than a minute later, he had rammed these words down throats along with the ball he slammed into the net after a Sutton header crashed off the crossbar.

Hearts, who had briefly held the upper hand, were now looking at the type of damage limitation exercise Aberdeen Bon Accord will have contemplated on the day of their 36-0 drubbing by Arbroath. Further strengthening this impression was the ease with which Larsson claimed Celtic’s fourth goal, and his 17th of the season, with a neat dink over Roddy McKenzie after a long ball out of defence from Bobo Balde.

For the home team the interval must still have seemed a long four minutes away. That they stumbled through them without further mishap was a minor achievement on a day of mostly crushing disappointment, though the fact Hearts ‘won’ the second half was something else which could be deemed worthy of mild acclaim. Substitute Gary Wales swooped to divert Jean Louis Valois’ free-kick past Robert Douglas with two minutes of the match remaining, though rarely has a home goal been greeted with such a perilous whimper at Tynecastle.

The first half had been the true testing ground and when referee Kenny Clark’s whistle did finally signal the end of an exacting experience for the home team not all their fans were present to hear it. Many had filed away before Hearts had even kicked off again after the fourth goal. The Tannoy man, perhaps mindful of the havoc wreaked by his pre-match comments, made the mournful Walk Away by Cast his first record of the interval.

It was of course entirely fitting since the Hearts fans, perhaps drawn to the pie-stalls in the hope of succour being applied to their stomachs if not their souls, had simply continued walking.

Andy Webster replaced McGeown at half-time, with Simmons on for Phil Stamp, who had taken a knock in the first half. Stamp was the one bulwark who looked capable of stemming these incessant Celtic sorties forward.

Even Steven Pressley, baited by the Celtic fans with chants of "Elvis for Scotland", had seemed uncomfortable against Martin O’Neill’s team, for whom Petrov, in the first half, was outstanding. The Bulgarian was replaced midway through the second half, job already done. In truth it had been completed by the interval and the second half was the kind of procession you might see snaking away from a church vestry, proving only marginally more diverting than O’Neill’s interminable contract extension negotiations.

Each Celtic touch was cheered by a clump of away fans who delighted in the emptying stadium, with disorder never seeming far away. Guppy was swiped at with a Hearts scarf when retrieving a ball from touch. It was the kind of resistance the Hearts players had learned was futile. "I don’t think it has affected them in the slightest," said O’Neill of the uncertainty regarding his future, before adding with a smile: "They’ll be pleased to get rid of me."

Hearts: McKenzie; Maybury, Pressley, McKenna, McMullan; McGeown (Simmons 45), Severin, Stamp (Webster 45), Valois; Kirk (Wales 77), de Vries. Subs not used: Gordon, Twaddle.

Celtic: Douglas; Valgaeren (Crainey 75), Balde, Laursen; Agathe, Lambert, Lennon, Petrov (Thompson 68), Guppy (Hartson 75); Sutton, Larsson. Subs not used: Gould, Miller.

Taken from the Scotsman

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