London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sun 07 Oct 2012 Celtic 1 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
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John McGlynn <-auth Hugh Macdonald auth-> Craig Thomson
[G Samaras 34]
13 of 018 -----L SPL A

Celtic 1 Hearts 0: The song remains the same for champions – but only just

Hugh Macdonald
Chief Sports Writer

THE soundtrack to a storyline entitled mission accomplished would normally be expected to be one of upbeat triumphalism.

Instead, the climax to this match was accompanied by a nervous groan and could ultimately have contained one mass, anguished howl from the Celtic support.

Yesterday's win over Hearts – act three of a Celtic drama that encompassed victories over a Motherwell side who were then leading the league, and a profitable adventure in Moscow – took Neil Lennon's side to the top of the table, where they will almost certainly remain until the end of the season.

It was not achieved without hard labour and moments of anxiety. The most obvious of the latter came with almost the last kick of the ball as a piece of carelessness by Efe Ambrose released Andrew Driver in the left of the box. The winger's shot flashed across Fraser Forster's goal and past the post.

The sigh of relief from the massed ranks behind the Celtic goal almost sucked the paint off the woodwork.

Craig Thomson's whistle quickly followed and thus the drama happily ended for those with Celtic sympathies.

A Georgios Samaras goal after 34 minutes was all that separated the sides after a match in which both had chances, though the champions had more opportunities and significantly better ones.

The contest was more heavily marked by a performance of creativity and threat from Kris Commons, now auditioning for the Steven Fletcher role in the Craig Levein squad-announcement soap opera.

The midfielder, who will spend the international break with his family, created the only goal by finding Samaras with a pass of pace and precision, and the Greek striker struck the ball through the legs of Peter Enckelman, the Hearts substitute goalkeeper who had replaced Jamie MacDonald, who suffered concussion in a clash with Charlie Mulgrew.

Commons was a regular cause of concern to the Hearts defence and his cross from the left in time added on in the first half should have been converted to make this a happy homecoming for the heroes of Moscow, but it shot across goal without a touch.

However, Commons, who played across the midfield, showed his technique and drive to create chances for Mulgrew, Samaras and James Forrest. In this form, he is a substantial threat to any defence, with the capacity to make breakthrough passes or shots. His interventions yesterday led to chances that were mostly scorned and this left Celtic vulnerable to one, significant intervention by a Hearts player.

Driver had his chance at the end and missed it, but the best opportunity for John McGlynn's side came in 25 minutes when Driver pursued Kelvin Wilson to the bye-line, robbed the English defender of the ball and fed it swiftly to Callum Paterson, whose desperate lunge squeezed past the post.

Wilson was booked for his protest over what he believed was a foul by Driver but even then one felt that it would be Hearts who would rue this occasion more than any Celtic player.

For all Mehdi Taouil's gentle promptings, Hearts failed to derail a Celtic express that had roared through Fir Park and the Luzhniki Stadium.

Lennon's team moved at a more sedate pace yesterday but the preferred destination was reached. The Celtic manager, who made only one change to the team that won in Moscow, with the injured Scott Burns being replaced by Forrest, admitted later that he perhaps could have freshened up his side more and there was a lack of vim about Celtic that became more pronounced as the match progressed.

There were also the lapses in defence that have frustrated Lennon on occasion, most notably by Wilson, who can be as relaxed as Tony Bennett on Valium. Ambrose was more aggressive, though his error in the final moments could have been calamitous.

The Celtic manager, though, would have been heartened by the improvement in form of Emilio Izaguirre. His excursions down the left flank threatened Hearts and a delightful confounding of Ryan McGowan was unfortunate not have led to a goal that would have ended all speculation over the destination of the points.

Biram Kayal came on, too, to stake vigorously his claims for a starting place, and Joe Ledley, who replaced the groggy Mulgrew, reminded everyone after a stuttering beginning why he was a regular starter before injury.

Hearts defended with a resolution and attacked with energy, if only occasional threat. Celtic's mission, though, was to achieve the three points that would take them top of the table and ensure that Lennon could face the international break with a deep satisfaction.

This was achieved with some comfort, although Driver could have written a different ending.

Taken from the Herald

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