London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sun 20 Sep 2009 Celtic 2 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Sporting Life ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Hugh Keevins auth-> Douglas McDonald
[C Killen 55] ;[G Loovens 93]
1 of 005 Suso Santana 5 L SPL A

Celtic 2 Hearts 1

Sep 21 2009 By Hugh Keevins

CELTIC gladly snapped up the chance to grab a two-point lead over Rangers - and it could be the turning point of their season.

Glenn Loovens scored with a header after a Danny Fox corner had been nodded back across goal by Aiden McGeady four minutes into injury time.

Hearts had taken Celtic, their manager and the fans to the brink of despair.

A fourth-minute goal from Suso Santana gave the Tynecastle side a lead they held until Chris Killen equalised 10 minutes after the break.

In between there were signs the Celtic fans were on a short fuse and unimpressed by what they were watching.

But the supporters were united behind the team when sub Niall McGinn, on for Shaun Maloney, was brought down by Lee Wallace with five minutes remaining. A penalty seemed the only decision possible but referee Dougie McDonald and his far-side assistant, Tommy Johnston, decided between them that no infringement had taken place.

Celtic's sense of injustice fuelled them up for one last push and Loovens delivered them from an undeserved draw with his close-range knock over the line.

If the belated win has the effect of unifying team and fans - as well as galvanising players who might have felt slighted by Tony Mowbray insisting his team are "miles away" from what he'd like to see - a trying afternoon will have been worth it.

To be fair to Hearts, they too were denied a penalty with the scores at 1-1 when Andreas Hinkel caughtWallace but the referee waved play on.

Celtic's target for the day wasn't miles away from being clear cut. Rangers had dropped two points the weekend before and Mowbray's side hadn't taken advantage.

Once was careless - but another failure to capitalise on a second straight draw for their title rivals would have been negligence.

It came close to that but anything other than a win for Celtic would have been unfair. They hit a post, struck the bar and had chances cleared off the line before dragging themselves into pole position after their disputed penalty call.

And Mowbray's team selection couldn't be faulted. Killen took the place of the injured Georgios Samaras up front alongside reinstated Scott McDonald and his goal justified that decision.

The defence, which had been slated after Tel Aviv, was changed by demoting Stephen McManus to the bench and pairing Gary Caldwell with Loovens.

And yet Mowbray's reorganisation took less than five minutes to unravel when Santana scored.

Scott Brown was responsible for creating the chance by giving the ball away to the scorer then failing to get back quickly enough to prevent the Spaniard unleashing a shot that beat Artur Boruc at his right-hand post.

Pre-match Celtic Park had been like the moon because there was no atmosphere. Santana's goal changed that, introducing an edgy, potentiallyhostile element that rose at a rate in keeping with growing disappointment.

Celtic's lead-up work occasionally was clever and incisive but the crowd weren't interested in hard-luck stories.

Aiden McGeady struck a post, for instance, but every time Caldwell made a mistake at the other end there were the unmissable rumblings that are directed at someone who's made public his contract demands.

Maloney hit the bar with a free-kick that beat Janos Ballogh but the margin for error was receding the longer the game went on without an equaliser.

In between, the home crowd sat in stony silence waiting to be uplifted.

But the early strike gave Hearts the advantage of biding their time and seizing on every error in an attempt to increase Celtic's discomfort.

When McGeady and Hinkel collided it was an opportunity for Suso to cross for Ismael Bouzid and let him direct a header towards goal.

Jose Goncalves went closer still when he struck a post with another glancing nod from a corner.

But sub Arvydas Novikovas, on for Marius Zaliukas, was unluckiest of all when he beat Caldwell to a long ball and lifted it over Boruc.

Caldwell got back just in time to clear off the line but that wasn't enough to save him from the rough edge of his keeper's tongue. The crowd took sides in the argument by chanting the Pole's name.

Hearts were content to form a maroon wall whenever Celtic swarmed forward and their composure at the back was unaffected by the loss of Zaliukas before the first half ended.

Booing accompanied Celtic to the dressing room at the break and fate wasn't exactly on their side when they re-emerged.

Killen, who had been anonymous up until the 49th minute, had a shot at goal that rebounded to Maloney and he saw his attempt charged down.

Just when it seemed Celtic might go on all day and not get a break they became the architects of their own recovery when the New Zealander made, and then scored, the leveller.

Killen's long-range effort was clawed away by Ballogh but fell to Maloney and his lightning return of the ball saw the striker thunder a header into an unguarded net.

The complexion of the game was transformed, with Celtic dominant and knocking loudly on the door for a winner.

McGeady, the undoubted heartbeat of the side on the day, hit the bar then Killen had a miss to haunt him. McDonald hit a post with the first effort, Killen took a swipe at the ball in front of an open goal and sent it spinning into the air and the little Aussie followed up with a touch that Craig Thomson cleared off the line.

But Loovens' late intervention meant there was to be no miscarriage of justice.

Now it remains to be seen what positive effect comes from looking down the barrel of defeat and dodging the bullet.

Taken from the Daily Record

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