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|Craig Levein||<-auth||None||auth->||Stuart Dougal|
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Paatelainen pays the penalty
How quickly a hero can turn villain. Six months after making his way into Easter Road folklore by scoring a hat-trick against Hearts, Mixu Paatelainen has gone and made a right mess of his copybook.
It summed up Hibs’ performance in the last Edinburgh derby of the season that the Finnish striker left the field a picture of embarrassment. Hibs’ failure to bless the game with a goal would perhaps have thwarted Hetty Wainthrop, and it certainly amazed Hearts, who left Leith a relieved team.
On an evening when the burning sun became lost in a thick fog, causing thousands of fans to sit shivering in T-shirts and shorts, Hibs somehow found themselves leaving the pitch robbed of their victory.
It had not been anything like as one-sided as the 6-2 extravaganza of last October, but Hibs could have had another barrow-load of goals here. In fact, Paatelainen was one of the few players who had not spurned a gaping opportunity by the time he rolled up to take a final-minute penalty, and chipped it tamely over the crossbar.
The Finnish striker must have been giggling with notions of enhancing his own legendary status as he ran up to take the kick, awarded for a clumsy lunge by Grant Murray on David Zitelli, but he was to turn away with the countenance of a fool.
This compounded the extraordinary profligacy of an Easter Road side that by no means looked helpless in the absence of Russell Latapy, the Trinidadian who was dropped from the squad after failing to show up for training, an absence explained by reports yesterday that he was arrested for drink-driving.
Latapy will never play for Hibs again, but he will leave them in a state of good health.
There was a fountain of desire on show from Hibs here, in particular from their two newest French recruits, Marc Libbra and Freddie Arpinon.
The pair began well, crowning their derby debuts with the gusto appropriate to these occasions, yet it was Hearts who looked a sharper unit in the early stages, and they might have led by three goals by the quarter-hour mark.
It was supposed to be Hearts who were burdened with a makeshift defence, but Hibs’ back-three were by no means sparkling with cohesion during the opening moments.
Gary Wales and Stephane Adam were the source of much of their strife, but the strikers’ tasks were made far easier by the befuddlement on show from a defence containing another striker, Dirk Lehmann.
First, though, it was Nick Colgan who was to be found dicing with danger. The Hibs goalkeeper was caught off guard when Wales released a quick, instinctive drive from 20 yards that nicked the edge of the post as Colgan scrambled to his left, aware that he was beaten.
Twice Adam found himself in cavernous space, first hesitating from six yards after a Robbie Neilson throw-in evaded everyone who tried to meet it, thus allowing Gary Smith to rob the ball and atone for his intial lapse of concentration, and then breaking free on the right wing, squaring for Wales and yelping with disgust as the youngster’s simple chance was parried at point blank range by Colgan.
But with more stealth and less pace than their opponents, Hibs gained control, prospering from the clever movement of Libbra. The striker had come close with a header from Arpinon’s corner before inheriting centre stage, waltzing his way into two better chances on the ground that he really ought to have completed.
The tall striker picked up the ball after good work from Mixu Paatelainen and, using Arpinon as a foil in front of him, drove his way towards goal. Libbra flitted beyond young Andy Webster with sorry ease, but pulled his shot just left of Antti Niemi’s goal.
A brilliantly-weighted pass on the volley from John O’Neil found Libbra bearing down once again on Niemi, this time on his left. His shot lacked the kind of pace normally necessary in testing the adept Finn, but it slipped under the keeper’s body and off the near post.
By now, Levein must have been counting his lucky stars that his side remained unstung. Having begun with Scott Severin backing up Kevin McKenna and Andy Webster in a three-man defence, the calibre of this combination had been even further impaired when Severin limped off after 13 minutes.
Frequently faced with the domineering Libbra, his replacement, Grant Murray, had a torrid time of it, and by half-time Hibs seemed to have swung the match into their favour.
However, their unsteady grip on this control was epitomised by frequent, erratic dallying between genius and madness. Matthias Jack flipped most often, at one point launching a wonderful left-footed shot that swirled off Niemi’s crossbar, at another missing heinously from within the six-yard box, after O’Neil presented him with an open view of the back of the net.
Franck Sauzee, too, verged from the sublime to the ridiculous. He had been booked after only 14 seconds of the match for a late challenge on Wales, and while his performance contained acrobatic moments that inspired awe, at other times he was left looking pretty daft.
Soon after Jack’s effort struck the crossbar, Sauzee attempted an identical shot that succeeded only in taking out a female paramedic by the corner flag.
Never able to recreate their earlier panache, Hearts became over-elaborate and underwhelming, and the like-for-like replacement of Wales for Andy Kirk seemed little more than a gesture of guesswork.
The offence for which Flogel saw a red card, though, was more a gesture of insanity. A late, petulant kick on Stuart Lovell had the Austrian marching furiously off to the dressing-room, where he would be joined soon after by buoyant team-mates.
Unlike them, Flogel seemed to have missed the point.
Hibernian: Colgan, Sauzee, Lehmann, Smith, Lovell, I Murray, O’Neil, Arpinon (Brebner 71), Jack, Paatelainen, Libbra (Zitelli 83).
Hearts:Niemi, McCann, McKenna, Adam (Juanjo 83), Cameron, Flogel, Wales (Kirk 54), Severin (G Murray 13), Tomaschek, Webster, Neilson.
Latapy finished at Hibs after row
An angry Alex McLeish revealed last night that Hibs midfielder Russell Latapy has played his last game for the club and will not be included in the team for the Scottish Cup final against Celtic in two weeks’ time.
Though the Hibs manager denied is decision was a reaction to reports the player had been charged with drink-driving on Friday, he said Latapy had broken a club rule banning alcohol in the 48 hours preceding any game.
The midfielder did not report for training on Friday, and McLeish learned that he had spent the day drinking with his friend Dwight Yorke, the Manchester United striker.
"Russell will never play for the club again," the manager confirmed after the draw with Hearts, which ended goalless after Mixu Paatelainen missed a last minute penalty. McLeish added the decision was "for the good of the club."
Latapy is expected to be fined two weeks wages. Having already disagreed with Hibs over pay, he had been linked with a move to Celtic this summer.
"It’s a shame it had to end that way," added McLeish. "He has helped the club to come a long way in a short time, but I think he knows that he has blown it. No player is bigger than the club - the club will still be here long after Alex McLeish has gone. It’s just a shame that he has not deemed the football side of it to be as important as the nights-out."
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