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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Ewing Grahame auth-> Iain Brines
Zaliukas Marius [L Miller pen 35] ;[R Vaz Te 80]
16 of 019 Ryan Stevenson 24 ;Stephen Elliott 83L SPL A

Hibernian 2 Hearts 2: match report

Ten-man Hearts extended their unbeaten sequence against their arch-rivals to seven matches with this battling performance at Easter Road on Sunday.

By Ewing Grahame 4:18PM BST 03 Apr 2011

Hibernian manager Colin Calderwood, however, saw this for what it was: an opportunity lost. His side's prospects of claiming a top-six finish are now slender, verging on the non-existent and his players have only themselves to blame

"We'd just lifted the place with our second goal and given our supporters everything to hope for," he said. "Then we snatch it away from ourselves."

Derby matches tend to be frenzied affairs but this encounter was more action-packed than anyone had a right to expect. Derek Riordan, off-form throughout, spurned a glorious opportunity in only the second minute when he volleyed wide from six yards out, a dreadful miss from a player with the forward's technical ability.

Two minutes later Andrew Driver burst down the left flank, cut the ball back for Stephen Elliott and the Irishman forced a fine diving save from Mark Brown.

Akpo Sodje collected the first yellow card of the afternoon for a late challenge on Ian Black in the eighth minute and Hearts had a reasonable penalty claim rejected two minutes later when Paul Hanlon brought down Elliott. It was breathless stuff.

The only surprise was that the opening goal took so long to arrive and that, when it came, Callum Booth, Hibernian's promising left-back, was culpable.

Hanlon nodded a meat-and-potatoes cross from Driver straight to Ryan Stevenson on the 18-yard line. The midfielder, operating as a makeshift striker due to Hearts' extensive injury list, wasn't closed down by Booth and had time to take a touch before drilling a left-foot shot low past Brown.

Hibernian equalised from the penalty spot in the 34th minute. Marius Zaliukas tugged at Sodje as he attempted to make contact with a Riordan cross and, although it's debatable whether or not the striker would have reached the ball in any case, the Lithuanian was ordered off before Liam Miller converted with aplomb.

Miller was then cautioned by referee Iain Brines for running to the Hearts supporters behind Jamie MacDonald's goal to celebrate, which led to missiles being thrown at the Irishman. Hearts defender Ismael Bouzid also had coins thrown at him.

The home side had been comprehensively outplayed until the dismissal but Francis Dickoh ought to have put them ahead on the stroke of half-time but failed to hit the target with a free header from six yards after he had been picked out by Booth's cross.

Victor Palsson proved to be equally profligate in the 54th minute, firing wildly over from 15 yards after Riordan and Miller had combined to leave the midfielder with only MacDonald to beat.

Miller and Sodje then left Riordan one-on-one with Brown but, in taking the ball round the goalkeeper, he strayed too wide for a shot and his cross was cleared.

Hibernian's constant pressure ensured that a second goal was inevitable and former Bolton playmaker Ricardo Vaz Te beat Andy Webster to David Wotherspoon's delivery before firing low past MacDonald to celebrate his debut.

That should have been that but the home side committed the cardinal sin of switching off immediately after scoring. Jason Thomson flighted in a free-kick from the right, Webster headed it back across goal and Elliott volleyed home from point-blank range.

Hearts still required two superb saves from MacDonald to deny Riordan (and for the same player to miss a sitter) in the closing stages in order to claim a hard-earned point.

"We should have survived that free-kick," moaned Calderwood. "We were punished for not doing our jobs. We had the advantage but couldn't get through it."

Hearts manager Jim Jefferies, by contrast, was delighted by the resilience of his team, although he believed the outcome would have been different if Hibs hadn't enjoyed a numerical advantage.

"We dominated them and they should have been dead and buried: we should have been three goals up after half an hour," he said.

"As for the sending-off, I'm not disputing it was a foul but was it a goal-scoring opportunity? Craig Thomson is convinced that Jamie would have got to the ball ahead of Sodje.

"However, we showed fantastic spirit to come from behind. Hibs were at full strength while we had a few players out so this was their best chance to end our record and they knew that. We're not going to give it up easily, though."

Match details

Hibernian (4-4-2): Brown; Towell, Dickoh, Hanlon, Booth; Miller, Palsson (Wotherspoon 69), Thornhill, Scott (Vaz Te h-t); Sodje, Riordan. Subs: Smith (g), Nish, Murray, Stephens, Stevenson. Booked: Sodje, Miller.

Hearts (4-4-2): MacDonald; Bouzid, Webster, Zaliukas, C. Thomson; Templeton (J. Thomson 36), Palazuelos, Black (Skacel 82), Driver (McGowan 72); Elliott, Stevenson. Subs: Balogh (g), Obua, Glen, Robinson. Booked: Palazuelos. Sent off: Zaliukas.

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