London Hearts Supporters Club

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Craig Levein <-auth Patrick Glenn auth-> Kenny Clark
[H Camara 41] ;[J Giroldo) 56] ;[J Hartson 82]
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Juninho strike sees off Hearts

Patrick Glenn at Parkhead
Sunday October 17, 2004
The Observer

Any match that featured Juninho's first goal for Celtic was always likely to be regarded by the supporters of the Scottish champions as a landmark. That the strike should relieve whatever small anxieties may have been settling on the home crowd - the little Brazilian complementing Henri Camara's first-half opener - merely intensified the acclaim with which it was received.

Yet, having eventually manoeuvred themselves into a position from which the points should have been thief-proof, Celtic had to survive a missed penalty from Steven Pressley before John Hartson's relentless commitment and diligence brought a deserved dividend in the form of the third goal.

That it should take Celtic so long to assert themselves and establish a lead was attributable to Hearts' readiness to play most of the match on their own territory, relying on the counter-thrust for profit. This did not signify a sudden loss of ambition in a team whose objectives under Craig Levein have always included inflicting as much damage as possible on the Old Firm.

The tactic was forced on the Tynecastle manager by the injury problems that left him without his two principal strikers, Mark de Vries and Ramon Perreira. It was a sound strategy, swarming in middle-to-back areas to deny Celtic the space in which to achieve their usual rhythm.

As a result, the play was, for much of the time, halting, both sides performing in snatches. It took the home side 20 minutes to produce a coherent move that was also incisive, and it came from a set piece.

Stilian Petrov's free-kick from the right was aimed straight at Camara, who put the free header from 12 yards past Craig Gordon, but suffered the disappointment of a raised flag ruling the goal out for offside. Celtic's own reliance on a three-man defence was prompted by Hearts' solitary forward, Graeme Weir, but carried a built-in risk that was almost exploited by Paul Hartley before Camara scored.

Alan Maybury was suddenly clear on the left and slipped the ball to Hartley, whose low, accurate, right-foot drive brought a diving save from David Marshall. Gordon was not allowed much chance of similar preventative action, though, when Camara scored.

Chris Sutton, in central defence for the day, played the ball forward to John Hartson, whose chested lay-off allowed Camara to volley high past the goalkeeper with his right foot from only six yards.

Sutton's domination of the diminutive Weir in the first half prompted Levein to send the bulkier, more forceful Kevin McKenna on in the latter's place at the start of the second half, but it was Martin O'Neill who was rewarded for leaving Celtic undisturbed. Juninho began his own run out on the right, carrying the ball some 40 yards before playing it forward to Hartson.

The Welshman used his ample frame to keep the ball and hold off challengers before playing a perfect return pass to Juninho. The midfielder simply stroked the ball left-footed past Gordon from 12 yards.

Hearts' opportunity to pose a semblance of a threat to Celtic arrived after 70 minutes. The claim for handball against McNamara claimed by Dennis Wyness, who had replaced Michael Stewart eight minutes earlier, brought agreement from the assistant referee, who indicated a penalty kick.

Referee Kenny Clark having accepted the judgment of his assistant, Steven Pressley then messed up the conversion attempt, clipping the outside of Marshall's right-hand post with a pulled right-foot shot.

Almost predictably in such circumstances, Hearts were killed off not long after. Didier Agathe's terrific pass gave Juninho the chance of a double, but his low shot was blocked by Gordon. The ball came out to Ross Wallace, whose chip to the far post was headed cleanly past Gordon from six yards by Hartson.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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