London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2004-05--> All for 20041016
<-Page <-Team Sat 16 Oct 2004 Celtic 3 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Paul Forsyth auth-> Kenny Clark
[H Camara 41] ;[J Giroldo) 56] ;[J Hartson 82]
1 of 010 ----- L SPL A

El Nino Juninho blows hot for Celtic


Camara 41; Juninho 57; Hartson 82


THE Hearts manager, Craig Levein, decided it would be more useful to catch a flight to Holland than watch the second half of yesterday’s match. His opponents proceeded to prove him right with a performance that completed what was another routine victory for the Scottish champions.

Goals by Juninho, his first for Celtic, and John Hartson followed a first-half opener by Henri Camara to give Celtic an eight-point lead in the Premierleague. If the Glasgow side can expect a more demanding encounter against Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek, Hearts have at least been given a rigorous test ahead of their UEFA Cup tie against Feyenoord on Thursday.

It is rare to find a Scottish league match between two teams who are each distracted by the group stages of a European campaign, but there was encouragement to be drawn from the scenario yesterday, especially after the trauma suffered by the national side in Moldova last week.

Two of the many players unavailable to Berti Vogts in Chisinau on Wednesday night were deemed fit enough to make their comeback. Steven Pressley reclaimed his place at the centre of Hearts’ defence after a virus, and Jackie McNamara’s long-term ankle injury had healed enough for him to start for Celtic.

Berti Vogts is entitled to be frustrated by the speed of those recoveries, although in McNamara’s case, the rush to effect a return was perhaps understandable. Bobo Balde was unavailable with a knee injury, Joos Valgaeren with a hamstring complaint, and in the absence of any other defenders on the bench, Chris Sutton was asked to line up in the middle of a three-man backline.

The Englishman, whose deep role enabled Camara to partner John Hartson up front, was quick to demonstrate that he was more than just a capable deputy. Twice in a testy opening half-hour, he clattered little Graham Weir, the lone striker for a Hearts side who strung five across the midfield in an effort to suffocate proceedings.

Hearts, though, were not intimidated. Alan Maybury was putting himself about as usual, as was Robbie Neilson, while their occasional forays into the penalty area carried menace. When Paul Hartley’s low shot skidded across the surface, goalkeeper David Marshall did well to turn it round the post.

More significant was the discipline with which the visitors restrained Celtic. In a disjointed first half, only Pressley’s vulnerability to the high ball appeared to encourage the home side, and their offside trap twice rendered irrelevant a raid on Craig Gordon’s goal. The first was when Henri Camara flashed a header into the bottom corner, the second when the same player tried to cash in on the goalkeeper’s parry of a shot by Ross Wallace.

Between those, however, was a 60-second spell in which Hartson underlined his ongoing claim for a new contract. His hooked shot four minutes before the interval, after Didier Agathe had cut the ball back from the corner flag, was Celtic’s first legal attempt on target. The Welshman’s clipped effort from about nine yards was heading for the far corner until Gordon reached across his six-yard area to block.

Gordon, though, could do nothing about Hartson’s next intervention just a few moments later. When Sutton’s delicate chip into the box landed on the broad expanse of the striker’s chest, the ball was redirected with perfect weight into the path of Camara. With a looping swing of his right boot, the striker lashed a convincing volley into the roof of the net.

Hearts emerged for the second half with Weir replaced by Kevin McKenna, but the towering Canadian’s attempt to unsettle Varga and Sutton quickly became academic. Within 14 minutes of the restart, the decisive second goal had been plundered, and the identity of the scorer lifted Celtic further. The relief shown by Martin O’Neill on the touchline was a consequence of more than just the scoreline.

Juninho has been waiting a long time for his first goal in Celtic colours, as has the manager who gave him Henrik Larsson’s shirt after signing him from Middlesbrough. When the Brazilian exchanged an intricate one-two with Hartson on the edge of the penalty box, he took the ball in his stride and stroked it under the goalkeeper with his left foot.

McKenna made a difference for Hearts, on one occasion forcing Marshall to block his low shot, but the Edinburgh side’s best effort was down to little more than a stroke of luck. When a flick by Phil Stamp struck McNamara’s hand, referee Kenny Clark pointed to the penalty spot, from where Pressley struck his shot off the outside of the post.

It wasn’t long before Celtic were confirming that the scoreline had not deserved to be any closer. Ross Wallace’s chip to the back post enabled Hartson to direct a header high into the net and, in so doing, earn himself a standing ovation when he was substituted two minutes later. Juninho, too, was applauded off the pitch, and it was easy to see why.

Taken from the Scotsman

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