Flag-happy Ulises puts Hibs on Cruz control Stayaway Hearts fans miss the pain in the rain as rivals prove their superiority
Rob Robertson at EASTER ROAD
22 Oct 2001
HIBERNIAN 2 HEARTS 1 Scorers: Hibs - de la Cruz (1, 24 min).
Hearts - Simmons (66).
Substitutions Hibernian McManus for Brewster 40min, Zitelli for Luna 86 Hearts Fulton for Webster 52, McKenna for Adam 57, Wales for Fuller 78 Subs not used Hibernian Caig, Townsley, Smart Hearts McKenzie, Sloan REFEREE Mike McCurry bookings Hibernian Brewster, Luna Hearts Fuller, Simmons Attendance 13,774 THE unveiling of the Ecuadorian national flag on the Easter Road terraces during a rain-swept Edinburgh derby which was boycotted by Hearts supporters because of a row over ticket prices, may seem an unlikely scenario.
However, as the mist rolled in from Leith at the end of an eventful 90 minutes yesterday it was the story of the missing fans, the homage to two-goal hero Ulises de La Cruz and Craig Levein's assumption that Hibs striker Craig Brewster should have been sent off which were the main talking points from an enthralling match.
Those Hearts supporters who stayed away in protest at the (pounds) 24 they were asked to pay to watch a game which was live on tele-vision must have been pleased with their judgement bearing in mind the result.
Only 1414 out of the 3500 tickets available to them were taken up, which meant there were more empty spaces than fans at the away end for such an important fixture.
Levein said afterwards he could understand why Hearts supporters turned their back on the game in such high numbers, but did concede that if they had been winning on a regular basis it was likely the place would have been packed, regardless of the price of tickets.
How much the organised boycott was really over ticket prices or simply an indication of disillusionment with their team is open to debate and it will be interesting to monitor attendances at Tynecastle in the coming weeks.
Those who stayed away missed a game in which Hibs showed just why they hold the balance of power in Edinburgh at present.
However, such a parochial approach to the fixture isn't what their manager Alex McLeish has in mind and still believes his team can set their sights higher and challenge the Old Firm.
On hearing that Rangers had won at St Johnstone McLeish shrugged his shoulders and made it clear his main aim is to make life difficult for the Ibrox club as well as Celtic in the league.
''The Old Firm getting away from the rest of the teams in the league so early in the season will be meat and drink for all the critics of Scottish football,'' said McLeish.
''However, we want to take points off them and make inroads against them - and all credit to Livingston for doing that already.'' There were certainly indications against Hearts that his side could be ready to start a good run of results which will keep them near the top of the table.
They did all the hard work yesterday in the first half with Ecuadorian internationalist de La Cruz the main reason for their dominance.
The wing-back's opening strike after only 36 seconds - and the other in 24 minutes - gave Hibs the early cushion they deserved and which ultimately proved to be a deficit which Levein's side found impossible to come back from.
Hearts did make a fightback in the second half and Stephen Simmons' goal in 66 minutes, which followed some dreadful Hibs defending, meant they at least had the slight chance of snatching a draw.
In the end it turned out to be de La Cruz's day and his first goal, coming when supporters in the east stand unveiled his national flag over the first three rows, was a thing of beauty.
Alen Orman, the Bosnian-born midfielder, must have thought that when he played a simple ball to de La Cruz just outside the box he would put in a cross.
Instead he steadied himself before firing a magnificent left foot shot into the top corner of the net which Antti Niemi could do nothing about.
His second was a simple tap-in after good work by Francisco Luna, although the Spaniard had to rely on a lucky deflection off Hearts defender Andy Webster to steer the ball into the path of de la Cruz.
Overall any problems Hibs had were of their own making and they were lucky to keep 11 men on the park when Brewster appeared to at least show intent to head butt Steven Pressley.
Mike McCurry only booked the striker who seemed to get more and more frustrated as he fought a losing battle against the Hearts captain, who was the best man on the park for the away side.
Brewster's challenges became more badly timed and his lunge on Scott Severin in the wake of his booking deserved a red card.
Levein, who never usually criticises officials, certainly thought the Hibs striker should have been sent off.
Alex McLeish immediately saw the danger signs and made the brave, but completely correct decision, to take Brewster off for his own good after only 39 minutes and replace him with young Tam McManus.
If he had remained on the park the red mist which appeared to engulf Brewster would have seen him being sent-off at some stage and although he didn't look at all happy, the decision was made for all the right reasons.
From a Hearts point of view they created little in front of goal with Ricardo Fuller, the Jamaican internationalist who was making his debut, ending up being booked in the first half for a rash challenge on Orman.
He then found his striking partner, Stephane Adam, being substituted early in the second half, which left him having to try and form a new understanding with substitute Kevin McKenna.
The other second half changes Levein made, which included putting on Steve Fulton for Webster, allowed his side to make some good headway and they deserved their goal from Simmons.
However, it was laid on a plate for him, firstly because of bad defending by Franck Sauzee, and then some sloppy marking by the Hibs back three as a unit which failed to close him down in the box.
Gary Wales came on for Fuller late in the game and the great atmosphere generated by the home support in the first half dissipated as the Tynecastle side came back into it.
However it was too little, too late for Hearts and near the end Hibs should have killed them off completely.
McManus put forward his own candidate for worst shot of the season when he somehow managed to put the ball out of play on the far side for a throw-in when one-on-one with Niemi.
The shocking miss was one of the few bad pieces of play from Hibs, who will now hope they can use this derby win as a springboard to chase the Old Firm in the league.
Taken from the Herald