London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 13 Dec 2008 Celtic 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type News of the World ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Kenny Macdonald auth-> Charlie Richmond
[S McManus 79]
13 of 032 Andrew Driver 23 L SPL A


By Kenny MacDonald, 13/12/2008
Scorers: CELTIC:

HEARTS came within 11 minutes of an Old Firm double in successive games until skipper Stephen McManus saved Celtic from their second home defeat of the season.

The Jambos were ahead thanks to Andrew Driver’s early goal and looking comfortable against a misfiring Celtic side who seemed to be running out of ideas and inspiration until big Mick pounced late on.

Hearts will probably rue coming so close to celebrating an excellent Parkhead performance with what should’ve been a memorable win.

Credit to the champions for slogging away when even a point seemed a forlorn hope and boy, did it ever seem forlorn after a dire opening hour.

Gordon Strachan’s side were booed off at the break after as tepid a first-half performance as they’ve served up this season.

An improvement after the interval wouldn’t have been difficult but fair play to them for battling back for a point which never looked remotely likely.

They forced their first save out of Hearts keeper Janos Balogh — a trundler from sub Lee Naylor he could have stopped by throwing his bunnet on — after 73 minutes.

That tells its own tale of unimaginative midfield play, pedestrian play on the flanks, slipshod passing and glaring lack of a striking threat by the Hoops.

Hearts’ 4-2-3-1 formation stifled Celtic and gave Bruno Aguiar, Laryea Kingston and Driver room to threaten and they got their tactics spot-on.

For Celtic Shunsuke Nakamura, once again, was posted missing when his side needed his quality.

As for Hearts, one defeat in nine games not only underlines that Csaba Laszlo knows how to structure a side both to win games and avoid losing them. If he can pay their water bills and players’ bonuses, he’ll get the freedom of Gorgie!

Celtic boss Gordon Strachan said: “It’s the first time a Champions League game in midweek might have affected us. It was a very poor first half.”

His problems were compounded by a first-half injury to Shaun Maloney, who’s out of the Old Firm game after limping off after 29 minutes with a pulled hamstring. Strachan said: “It’s not good.”

Hearts boss Laszlo said: “You probably shouldn’t be unhappy leaving here with one point but we’re disappointed, which shows how we’ve progressed.” Celtic started slackly and it was Hearts who produced the first moment of note, when Marius Zaliukas drove Aguiar’s pass narrowly wide after the Celtic defence had been caught napping at a Hearts corner.

Other than that, the match ball bursting was about as dramatic as it got early on.

Hearts took the lead midway through the first half. Scott Brown’s misplaced pass was easily gobbled up by Kingston. The Jambos carried the ball down the right flank where Aguiar slipped it to Kingston, who, adding insult to injury, nutmegged the back-tracking Brown.

The Ghanaian’s drive across goal was heading well wide but with Celtic’s defence looking ponderous, Driver reacted smartly to take control of the wayward shot and beat Boruc from close range.

There were more rumblings of discontent from the home fans in the next attack, when Christian Nade was given time to turn and fire in a shot which Boruc smothered.

By then Celtic had been forced into a change. They’d started with pint-sized pair Scott McDonald and Shaun Maloney up front, but Maloney pulled a hamstring and was replaced by Georgios Samaras.

It was a blessing in disguise. The two wee guys up front had got nowhere against Hearts’ four big defenders and had looked the wrong pairing from the start.

Things didn’t improve for the home side. Boruc came off his line but his attempt to reach Aguiar’s free-kick looked doomed. He got nowhere near it, Zaliukas did, and Celtic’s defenders had to react smartly to smother Nade’s attempt to shoot. Gary Caldwell, mistiming a header, was next to look shaky. The ball skidded off his head, Driver darted clear and Boruc dived smartly to his left to claw his low drive away. Celtic weren’t just playing badly, they looked out of sorts in general.

They were booed off at the break but upped the tempo after the restart.

The home fans took a break from moaning at their own side to target Kingston, who was booked for persistent fouling after 57 minutes then sailed close to the wind when he went in late on Aiden McGeady. Laszlo immediately substituted him for his own preservation.

Celtic’s pressure, though, was beginning to pin Hearts back and they got their reward with 11 minutes left. Nakamura’s cross was headed back across goal by Samaras and McManus headed into the net.

Celtic might have been expected to throw the kitchen sink at Hearts but there seemed to be an acceptance that they had used their get out of jail free card. McDonald’s shot across goal was as close as they came but a Hearts defeat would have been an injustice.

CELTIC: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Wilson (Naylor 65), Nakamura, Scott Brown, Hartley, McGeady, McDonald, Maloney (Samaras 30). Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Sheridan, Crosas, O'Dea, Mizuno.

HEARTS: Balogh, Neilson, Berra, Karipidis, Palazuelos, Jonsson, Kingston (Obua 60), Aguiar (Cesnauskis 65), Zaliukas, Driver, Nade (Mole 90). Subs Not Used: MacDonald, Makela, Thomson, Rapnik.

From the News of the World

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