London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2006-07--> All for 20070114
<-Page <-Team Sun 14 Jan 2007 Hearts 1 Celtic 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Kenny Clark
[J Hesselink 58] ;[J Jarosik 81]
3 of 003 Saulius Mikoliunas 28 L SPL H

Same old story as Jambos blow lead

Hearts 1-2 Celtic

FEELINGS of injustice and frustration are not new to Hearts following matches with Celtic, and this one was no different. Remembering this season's previous encounter between the sides in Glasgow and the meeting at Tynecastle on New Year's Day 2006, the habit of having leads overhauled in these fixtures is a recurring theme for Valdas Ivanauskas and his players. Not surprisingly, it's an unwelcome trend.

Steven Pressley's return to Gorgie dominated the thoughts of many throughout yesterday afternoon for obvious reasons, but, assessing the wider picture, the match was of considerably more significance to Hearts than just welcoming their former skipper. Victory would have allowed them to usurp Aberdeen and move into third place within two points of second-placed Rangers. That eventuality looked ever so probable when Saulius Mikoliunas executed a glorious opening goal.

Hearts are not noted for letting advantages slip as they regularly go about their business in the Scottish Premier League, but when confronted by Gordon Strachan and Celtic, the inability to see a result out is consistently exposed. Again yesterday the Edinburgh side revelled in sustained spells of dominance over the champions, but come full-time they had only grievance as a consolation.

The turning point was fairly easy to pinpoint. At 1-0 in front, Ivanauskas was forced to contend with the proverbial double whammy shortly after half-time when his impressive winger Andy Driver required replacing. Just two minutes later, Strachan introduced the pace of Craig Beattie in place of Maciej Zurawski.

Driver had suffered a virus all week and could no longer continue, but with hindsight perhaps Lee Wallace would have made for a better substitution in a straight swap as Neil McCann could then have continued with his productive display alongside Paul Hartley in central midfield. As it transpired, Ivanauskas chose to replace Driver with Calum Elliot, placing the youngster into a central role and shunting McCann out wide to the left.

Hearts consequently lost their impetus, while Celtic, with the injection of Beattie's speed, capitalised to wear down their hosts. The result brought yet more frustration for Ivanauskas. "I thought we deserved a different result," he said. "In the first half we tried to go forward and put some pressure on them. This was OK, but Celtic are a clever team. We made two mistakes and they scored two goals. I'm very, very disappointed.

"We had problems because Andy Driver, who had done well in the first half, felt bad at half-time and after ten minutes of the second half it was game over for him. We still had a lot of chances to score after that but we needed a second goal. Celtic are a clever, experienced team and that is why they are league leaders." Ivanauskas spouted deserved praise for his compatriot, Mikoliunas, who appears to have recovered from a disastrous early-season vein of form to show his true capabilities. His goal aside, this could have been his best performance in a maroon shirt. "Maybe the fans have criticised Miko, but I know him very well," said Ivanauskas. "I have been with Miko for a long time - he is a good player. He may be young, but this season can be Miko's season."

It could ultimately also be Pressley's season. The 33-year-old is in line to collect the third title-winner's medal of his career following his move to Parkhead. However, he was, at times, troubled by Hearts yesterday with Roman Bednar at his imposing best during the first half.

"Hearts started at a ferocious pace, but as the game slowly opened up we began to show our quality," said Pressley. "When you have players of the calibre of Shunsuke Nakamura, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Craig Beattie, then it gives you real quality. When the game opened up they were able to show their quality.

"I'm improving game by game. I still think I've got a wee bit to go and the game was a terrific test for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I think you've still to see the best of Steven Pressley yet."

Upon arriving at Tynecastle, Pressley engaged in a particularly emotional hug with Ivanauskas in the stadium's reception area. Just before 1.30pm he sprinted purposefully out of the tunnel and ran across to the far side where the Hearts players were conducting their warm-up. A wry smile was flashed at his former colleagues before he proceeded to lead Celtic's pre-match exercises.

Pressley had expected to encounter an arch rival in the form of Edgaras Jankauskas at some point yesterday, but, having been passed fit by Ivanauskas on Thursday, the striker was neither in the Hearts starting 11 nor among the substitutes. Instead, Pressley had Bednar to contend with, a player who caused the Scot numerous problems.

Hearts opened with the bit between their teeth, the diminutive midfield quartet of Mikoliunas, Paul Hartley, McCann and Driver initially compensating well for the lack of a physical presence by playing at a high tempo to upset Celtic. Others in the home side were content to take their lead from this.

The match was quiet in terms of incident early on. The home fans howled for a penalty in the tenth minute when Bednar fell in a tangle with Darren O'Dea. Playing on the break, Celtic fashioned an opening through Zurawski in the 17th minute. However, the Pole kicked fresh air in attempting to test Craig Gordon.

There was a rather unnecessary rendition of 'The Soldier's Song' from the travelling support after 22 minutes, but Hearts responded with one of the most emphatic goals Artur Boruc will ever concede. In truth, Strachan's side were beginning to attain a foothold in proceedings as the game entered its 28th minute, which made the opener all the more timely.

Evander Sno tried to knock the ball past Takis Fyssas deep inside the home half, but was cleverly dispossessed by the Greek, who then instigated a flowing passing movement which led to the goal. Bednar dropped off O'Dea to receive the ball from Fyssas, he ushered it wide to Mikoliunas in space and the Lithuanian scampered inside to unleash a ferocious drive high into the corner of the net with his left foot. Allegedly, that is the weaker of the two.

The speed of the match increased following the breaking of the deadlock and Hearts, to their credit, rose to the challenge. Another defence-parting move took place in the 40th minute when Bednar released Driver in space through the middle. Pressley was posted missing, but Boruc brilliantly repelled the teenager's powerful drive. Hartley collected the loose ball and his cross rebounded to Bednar for a diving header at goal, but, fortunately for Celtic, Paul Telfer was able to clear with only millimetres to spare.

Driver had another opportunity from Mikoliunas' right-sided cutback, but the young Englishman could only shoot straight at Boruc. Then, at the opposite end, Nakamura forced his way to the byline on the Celtic left for Zurawski to hook a left-footed shot which Gordon collected on the ground.

There was an argument that the interval came too soon for Hearts, and events shortly after it when Driver had to be removed and Beattie came on for Celtic contributed to the final outcome. Under mounting pressure in the 56th minute, the hosts somehow survived as Gordon brilliantly denied Vennegoor of Hesselink from Beattie's hanging back-post cross. Evander Sno was in place to follow up, but Fyssas inexplicably managed to deflect his shot off the goal line.

Hearts' defiance could not be sustained, however, and just before the hour mark Vennegoor of Hesselink was granted the simplest of equalisers. Beattie fought his way past Christophe Berra on the right side of the home penalty box for a right-footed effort which Gordon, watched from the directors' box by Fulham goalkeeping coach Dave Beasant, could only parry. From four yards, Celtic's Dutch forward had no trouble levelling the scores.

What was rather distasteful about the goal was the celebration of Strachan's assistant, Garry Pendry. Emerging from the away dugout, Pendry spun round to face the Hearts supporters in section N before clapping ridiculously with a broad smile on his face. This brought unimpressed glares from the police presence in the tunnel, as well as vehement protests to the constabulary from Tynecastle supporters.

Celtic had now seized the momentum and their players were throwing themselves at every tackle, eventually committing 29 fouls to Hearts' ten. The hosts were caught too mindful of attack in the 65th minute as Beattie was allowed to sprint free despite looking suspiciously offside. The forward squared his pass to Sno, who teed up Nakamura for a shot that was deflected on to the crossbar by the diving Christophe Berra. Marius Zaliukas beat Vennegoor of Hesselink to the ball to complete the clearance.

The closing stages were the epitome of the engrossing end-to-end football match, but as Hearts toiled to regain their energy in midfield their
opponents assumed more and more control. Eventually, the hosts were worn down, although it required quite a spectacular solo goal by Jiri Jarosik. The Czech strode through a weak Mikoliunas tackle and cut inside Ibrahim Tall wide on the left. Once given a sight of goal, he dispatched the ball low with his right foot into Gordon's left corner.

Hard to take for Ivanauskas and Hearts, but another clinical away victory for Strachan and his champions elect. Some allowed their frustration to spill over if allegations of a small band of maroon-clad fans storming the Celtic bus as it left Tynecastle are to be believed.

Frustration is a difficult emotion to counter, perhaps worsened for Hearts yesterday by the sight of Pressley captaining Celtic to victory in Edinburgh. However, there was enough about the home performance to suggest that progress will continue without the former captain.

Taken from the Scotsman

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