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|<-Page||<-Team||Sat 29 Oct 2005 Hibernian 2 Hearts 0||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Scotsman ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|John McGlynn (Caretaker)||<-auth||David Hardie||auth->||John Underhill|
|Jankauskas Edgaras||[G Buezelin 78] ;[G O'Connor 80]|
|51||of 099||-----||L SPL||A|
Hibs' silent assassins hit Hearts hard
Hibs 2 (Beuzelin 77, O'Conner 80)
A FOUR-GOAL hammering at Tynecastle on only the second day of the new SPL campaign not only raised the spectre of Hibs being the proverbial "one season wonders" but, arguably, gave arch-rivals Hearts the impetus needed to race to the top of the table.
But in the intervening period, while all at Gorgie have boasted of just what the rest of Scottish - and European - football can expect under the Vladimir Romanov revolution, Hibs have quietly gone about their own business, revenge for the humiliation on the other side of the city representing 27 points out of a possible 33 since that fateful day.
"We are unbeatable," taunted the maroon platoon behind Craig Gordon's goal in the first-half, the claim echoing that of Hearts' bombastic chairman George Foulkes that following the midweek results the fight for the title had become a two-horse race between his club and Celtic.
Even his own players quickly moved to distance themselves from such a bold assertion, well aware of how fickle fate can be in football.
And with good reason- who else and where else would you expect to end a run of 12 matches without defeat than Hibs at Easter Road?
Unlucky 13 for Hearts? Not a bit of it, Tony Mowbray's youngsters were well worth their win, a victory which moves them to within four points of both their Capital neighbours and Celtic who moved to the top of the pile with their hard-fought triumph over Dundee United at Tannadice yesterday.
Hearts wins over Dunfermline and Kilmarnock in the wake of George Burley's shock sacking last weekend appeared to prove his departure had had no visible effect on the players he left behind, but on the evidence of these 90 minutes the turmoil within Tynecastle seems to be exacting some toll.
The ominous signs were there early on, interim manager John McGlynn exhorting his players to "lift it" on two or three occasions before the interval, but to no avail.
Hibs, though, looked a touch nervous, making poor use of dead-ball situations around their visitors' penalty area with both sides unable to impose themselves on the game for more than a few minutes at a time.
The final outcome might have been different had former Hibs star Paul Hartley not fluffed a weak shot straight at Zibi Malkowski after being put clear by Rudi Skacel and had Edgar Jankauskas, already on a yellow card, not reacted stupidly to a tackle by Scott Brown, the Lithuanian pushing the youngster and earning himself the first rights to the soap.
The reaction of Jankauskas was probably borne out of frustration, having been superbly shackled by the increasingly impressive Humphrey Rudge.
The Dutch defender may have been giving away a few inches but his tenacity and determination not to come out second best in any challenge has added a ruggedness to Hibs back four, the Easter Road outfit having conceded just one goal in three-and-a-half matches since Rudge made his SPL debut as a substitute against Kilmarnock.
Hibs boss Mowbray waited a few minutes to ascertain exactly what Hearts tactics would be in the wake of that dismissal before springing Ivan Sproule - hardly a state secret any longer but just as difficult to stop - to exploit the inevitable spaces which would be created.
His plan worked to perfection, the Northern Ireland star racing on to Gary Caldwell's astutely placed pass before delivering a low cross which Guillaume Beuzelin clipped into the far corner of the net.
Astonishingly, given the amount of possession Hibs had enjoyed, Beuzelin's 77th minute strike was the home side's first shot on target.
However, they only had to wait three more minutes for another, Garry O'Connor's 50th goal for Hibs clinching a memorable victory, leaving Mowbray to attempt to play down the suggestion that his side could now count themselves as potential SPL champions.
While clearly delighted with the win, Mowbray said: "We are only 13 games in and history shows that injuries and suspension come into it.
"You drop points along the way, you lose to teams you would hope you won't while the Old Firm tend to win week in, week out and eventually over the course of 38 matches they drift lots of points ahead.
"Last season we finished 33 points behind them and that for me is too big a gap to bridge. We have improved but it is the same bunch of players, a year older and improving but we haven't added to the squad.
"Hearts potentially could do it because of the investment they have made in their squad but we will keep plugging away, picking up points and we will see where we are February/March."
Time will tell, with Beuzelin insisting he and his team-mates would enjoy the moment rather than try to look too far ahead.
The French ace said: "It's a long season but we have closed the gap on Hearts and with Rangers only drawing we are further ahead of them so it is a very interesting season.
"It was revenge for us after losing the first derby and for Hearts to lose their first game of the season here at Easter Road was great for our fans."
Beuzelin agreed with Mowbray that Jankauskas' red card had played it's part in Hibs win, saying: "After he went off we had lots of possibilities to score, there was space in the middle of the park for me to get forward and that's how I got my goal. It was good for us, it made it easier."
Jankauskas' dismissal apart, Mowbray felt his side were in the ascendancy in any case and praised his side's patience in their search for the opening goal.
He said: "I was pleased with the team, they are young not just in age but in experience of how to win football matches. The danger when you are playing against ten men is that you go a bit too direct, you put two, three or four players up front and can then be picked off on the counter attack.
"But I never felt we were threatened at all after they were reduced to ten men. We showed great game knowledge to play the way we did."
And Mowbray revealed he hadn't mentioned the defeat in Gorgie at all during the build-up to the match.
He said: "Everyone finds it difficult at Tynecastle, it's very tight and Hearts are pretty direct.
"They have a physical presence about them and once they have you pinned in your half you find it very hard to get out.
"Since then we have come on leaps and bounds. I felt in this game we saw off their physical attributes early on and in the second half we started to come into the ascendancy and our football players got on top.
"The sending off probably was a turning point as was the introduction of Ivan. It can be difficult trying to play through ten men so it was about getting to the bye-line and cutting it back.
"We managed to get our first goal by doing that then Hearts had to come out a bit and we were able to pick them off and get the second goal."
Mowbray dedicated the win to the Easter Road outfit's supporters, aware of just how hard the defeat at Tynecastle had been to take.
He said: "For me derby games are all about the supporters and I am delighted we were able to send them home happy. They'd probably taken a bit of flak over the past two or three months so I was delighted for them and the players who are steadily progressing."
Taken from the Scotsman
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