London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 02 Apr 2005 Celtic 0 Hearts 2 Team-> Page->
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John Robertson <-auth None auth-> Hugh Dallas
2 of 010 Lee Miller 8 ;Mark Burchill 19 L SPL A

Celtic 0-2 Hearts


FORMER Celtic star Mark Burchill blew the SPL title race wide open.

Lee Miller had headed Hearts into an early lead before setting up Burchill to give them a two-goal advantage at the break.

And the Hoops never recovered in a dress rehearsal for next week’s Tennent’s Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park.

Celtic boss Martin O'Neill said: “It’s a big setback having worked so hard in recent weeks to regain the initiative from Rangers.

“I did say there are going to be a few twists and turns and we have to play Hearts a couple more times.

“It’s a blow but we’ll have to come roaring back.”

O’Neill conceded that his team did not deserve anything but defeat when Burchill came back to haunt his former club after on-loan Miller had put Hearts ahead.

O’Neill added: “I’m not shellshocked but I am disappointed that we lost the game.

“We gave ourselves a lot to do early in the match by conceding goals that weren’t particularly brilliant.

“There was still time to come back but we were unable to do so.

“It’s not that we were just beaten but we just didn’t do enough to win the game.

“We deserved to get beaten because we never created enough chances to win the game and we certainly didn’t take them when we created them.

“Usually we have a lot of chances in both halves but we didn’t here and the disappointing fact is that we have been creating a few chances and taking them in recent weeks.”

O’Neill blamed the recent World Cup qualifiers for a lack of spark among those of his team who had been playing for their national teams.

He said: “I don’t want to make excuses but we had players away on international duty.

“It is up to us to get them right because we are the ones they return to. We have to try and get it right.

“We played Dundee United a fortnight ago and Stilian Petrov joined us for the first time on Friday and hasn’t been able to train with us.

“Stanislav Varga played two games and looked exceptionally tired.

“It is not the games as such, it is the travelling back and forward which takes a lot out of players.

“We have a lot of players away on international duty and it takes its toll but other teams up and down the country and in other countries have a similar situation and you just have to get on with it.”

Celtic started confidently but their fans were stunned into silence after just eight minutes when the visitors snatched the lead against the run of play.

David Marshall, back in for injured Robert Douglas for the first time since November, did brilliantly to keep out Andy Webster’s point-blank header from Marius Kizys’ free-kick, but Miller reacted quicker than the sleeping home defence to head home the rebound.

The Glasgow giants reacted instantly and Hearts had Steven Pressley and Robbie Nielsen booked, the latter for bringing down in-form Craig Bellamy outside the box.

From the resulting free-kick, Aiden McGeady curled an inviting ball into the box but John Hartson headed over from just six yards.

Hearts were let off the hook in the 17th minute when Alan Thompson’s dangerous corner was allowed to fly across the face of goal.

Bobo Balde looked surprised to see it arrive and he completely missed a golden chance to pull Celtic back on level terms.

And the home side were emphatically punished three minutes later with Burchill ruthlessly coming back to haunt them.

Miller played a perfectly-weighted ball through to Burchill after a Stephane Henchoz mistake.

Stanislav Varga gave him far too much room and the former Portsmouth striker coolly steered his right-foot shot past Marshall and into the bottom corner.

Hartson had the ball in the net moments later when he headed Thompson’s free-kick across Craig Gordon and into the far corner but the linesman had his flag up for offside.

Controversial referee Dallas, who is no stranger to both teams, had his book out again in the 24th minute after booking Neil MacFarlane for pulling back Thompson.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure as Gordon got down well to save Hartson’s shot from eight yards and Varga headed Thompson’s cross wide from close range.

Bellamy always looked capable of doing something special with his pace but his cross was too powerful in the 34th minute and Hartson could only head over the top.

Taken from the Sun

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