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 Sunday Herald ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Michael Grant auth-> Kenny Clark
[H Camara 41] ;[J Giroldo) 56] ;[J Hartson 82]
2 of 010 ----- L SPL A

Three strikes and Levein’s out

Michael Grant at Celtic Park

IT cannot be an unusual experience for visiting managers at Parkhead to feel like walking away from it all halfway through a demoralising defeat, but Craig Levein agonised before deserting his post yesterday.
Hearts were still in the game when he made his pre-arranged departure at the interval, so the updates he received for the remainder of the afternoon must have been particularly depressing.

A complicated travel itinerary meant Levein had to leave early to catch a tea-time flight out of Edinburgh en route to watching Feyenoord play at Roda this lunchtime. Feyenoord are Hearts’ first opposition in the Uefa Cup group stage on Thursday. Levein concluded that if he could take charge of affairs at Parkhead up to and including the half-time team talk he could then leave matters in the capable hands of his assistant, Peter Houston.

That Celtic’s first-half lead through Henri Camara’s seventh goal of the season would be supplemented by Juninho’s first for the club, and late third from John Hartson, would not have reached Levein as sensational news. In setting out a defensive team at Parkhead, though, his team at least faced ideal preparation for Feyenoord in Rotterdam’s intimidating De Kuip Stadium.

Celtic leave the country before them and face Shakhtar Donetsk with domestic matters sewn up. This was their eighth win in nine league games and they lead the SPL by eight points, a feat accomplished with Jackie McNamara returning after a month out with an ankle ligament injury. Celtic were grateful for his availability because the composition of their back three highlighted the defensive concerns with which the team will travel to Ukraine. McNamara was on the left with Chris Sutton in the centre and Stan Varga, as the only orthodox centre-half available, on the right.

With only Graham Weir up front for Hearts, the Celtic defenders were liable to have a largely untroubled afternoon, and so it proved. Hearts came to contain. A back four and five spread across the middle guaranteed that Celtic would have precious little room in which to operate.

Given that Hearts defended not only in numbers but with the composure and organisation which usually characterises Levein’s team, there was no surprise in the fact the first half was in its closing minutes before Celtic began to wear them down and create a cluster of chances.

Juninho fluffed an attempted volley, then a couple of minutes later Didier Agathe’s cut-back was dummied by Camara and ran for Hartson to turn a shot towards goal which Gordon dived low to save. The reprieve was brief and within a minute the game had the goal it needed. Sutton was far enough upfield to dink a ball towards Hartson and the forward, despite Robbie Neilson’s close attention, laid the ball off with his chest for Camara to react athletically to lash a shot high into Gordon’s net. Camara had an earlier header into the goal correctly ruled offside and Hearts’ defenders claimed the same again, but Neilson had played him onside.

Michael Stewart was one of those Hearts midfielders whose workrate could not be faulted but who offered little when in possession. When he did have a rare moment on the ball in the 56th minute he only succeeded in giving it away and Celtic began the short, explosive move which gave them an unassailable two-goal lead. Juninho burst down the Celtic right, played a push-and-run pass to Hartson and then seized on the perfect return pass to stroke an exquisite finish across Gordon into the net.

“When you score a goal it makes a difference,” said Juninho, who has had a slow start to his Celtic career. “People look at you in a different way. But I have always said I am not a great goalscorer, I am a playmaker.” Juninho played in flashes but the goal brought Parkhead to its feet and Martin O’Neill will hope that it acts as a catalyst.

Hearts response was admirable. With about 25 minutes left they became more adventurous and went with Kevin McKenna and Dennis Wyness up front in a 4-4-2. They tossed away their best hope of a lifeline, though, when Kenny Clark awarded a debatable penalty when it was unclear whether Phil Stamp’s cross had hit McNamara’s hand or his chest. No matter, Steven Pressley – back after missing Scotland’s double-header because of a virus – ended a perfect record of 12 converted penalties by hitting the outside of Marshall’s post.

“Elvis is sick about missing it,” said Houston. “He feels he let the guys down but he has had a few important penalties in the past and scored them.”

Celtic asserted themselves again and Gordon saved wonderfully from Hartson before being beaten again nine minutes from time when Wallace’s cross found the Welshman unmarked at the back post for a perfunctory header. Depressing news for the man travelling east along the M8.

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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