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|<-Page||<-Team||Mon 06 Aug 2007 Hearts 0 Hibernian 1||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Scotsman ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|Anatoly Korobochka||<-auth||Barry Anderson||auth->||Stuart Dougal|
|[B Kerr 3]|
|3||of 005||-----||L SPL||H|
Hearts suffer a blue Monday
By BARRY ANDERSON
Hearts 0 - Hibs 1
AS FAR as new season kick-starts go, it was just about the worst imaginable. Hearts bid farewell to Craig Gordon yesterday morning before an uninspiring Edinburgh derby defeat that culminated in the jeering of Lithuanian debutant Ricardas Beniusis. If supporters are seeking a consolation, it must be that things can only improve from here.
The new Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League campaign began with a deafening ker-ching at Tynecastle yesterday as the club accepted bids which could total £9million for their captain. Most supporters would praise the commendable business acumen shown by Vladimir Romanov during Gordon's protracted transfer saga, but their disenchantment with footballing issues remain.
Hearts found themselves 1-0 down to Hibs just two minutes into last night's match and failed to recover. Beniusis, admittedly looking cumbersome and disorientated in attack during his first competitive match in Scotland, became a focal point for supporters' frustration. This resulted in widespread booing upon his substitution in the 70th minute and was followed by chants of "you don't know what you're doing" aimed at the home dugout.
Anatoli Korobochka and Stephen Frail remained impassive during the match as they strove to galvanise their side, but afterwards a disconsolate looking Frail gave some forthright opinions on his side's opening day. "I don't think the Craig Gordon factor affected us as coaches but it might have affected the players," he said.
"When you look back at the whole day - Craig said his goodbyes yesterday morning - and then at the end of the day you lose 1-0 at home, it wasn't a good day for us. We need to lick our wounds and dust ourselves down. Because of the reaction of the fans a defeat always seems worse here [at Tynecastle]. I'm not saying we played particularly well but I wouldn't say it was such a bad performance that we need to start pushing panic buttons.
"I wouldn't say Hibs have integrated better than we have. They're playing the way John [Collins] wants them to by getting the ball down and passing it, but maybe because of the way Beniusis played up front people are looking at us and saying we haven't integrated. It's something we need to keep working on. I think if you take the goal out of it there wasn't much in it.
"It was disappointing to lose the game, and being the first match of the season against our city rivals makes it that little bit worse. We didn't put Hibs under enough pressure. We lost a bad goal early on but we still had 80-odd minutes to get it back. In the first half we probably dominated and at times kept the ball well and had them under pressure, but we didn't pressurise them enough at the back. We didn't get enough crosses into the box and their goalkeeper wasn't making saves. He probably won't have an easier 90 minutes all season."
Indeed, Yves Ma-Kalambay was exercised only sporadically on his Hibs debut, although this was far from a vintage performance from the Easter Road side. Collins also handed competitive debuts to Brian Kerr and Clayton Donaldson, whilst Hearts introduced Beniusis, Audrius Ksanavicius and former Hibs midfielder Michael Stewart.
The former Manchester United player was the centre of attention as the match kicked off, with many mindful of his acrimonious departure from Leith in April. However, two minutes in the focus turned to Hibs. David Murphy's long pass from defence saw Steven Fletcher set off in pursuit along with Marius Zaliukas, and the young Scot's cross caused unnecessary panic in a Hearts defence minus the suspended Christophe Berra. Christos Karipidis took to the air but failed miserably with his attempted clearance and Kerr nodded the opening goal past Steve Banks from six yards out.
With Ibrahim Tall looking particularly uncomfortable as a central midfielder, Hearts looked to respond amid what was a fervid and often crowded central area. Fluent passing moves were difficult to develop as Stewart discovered, although he wasn't helped by the lack of a natural midfield partner.
Hibs' passing was generally more accurate during the opening period as Kerr and Lewis Stevenson tried to initiate some rhythm, but the more the first half progressed the more the hosts resembled an attacking force. The absences of Gordon and Berra contributed to a disjointed looking Hearts defence at times but once Ksanavicius and Stewart bedded themselves in they began to impose themselves.
The Lithuanian's lay-off was clipped over Ma-Kalambay's crossbar by Stewart on 28 minutes before Zaliukas nodded a free-kick tamely into the Belgian's arms. Ksanavicius then reversed his pass to Andy Driver on Hibs' 18-yard line but the young Englishman's shot drifted across goal and out for a goal-kick.
The home support sensed the momentum was now with their side and marvelled at the trickery and vision of Ksanavicius as a deep-lying forward. His remit was to supply Saulius Mikoliunas, Beniusis and Driver with the ball, however Hearts may have been better served by a orthodox attacking partner for Beniusis as they sought to level the scoreline.
Despite Korobochka and Frail demanding greater urgency from their side during the interval, Hibs substitute Abdessalam Benjelloun was granted the first opportunity of the second period. He volleyed wide at an angle from Merouane Zemmama's deep cross.
Tall eventually made way for teenager Eggert Jonsson prior to the hour mark, but it was fresh attacking impetus the home support craved with Beniusis looking increasingly disheartened and off the pace. Try as they did, Hearts were toiling to penetrate their opponents. Hope was raised when Juho Makela climbed off the bench but he replaced Saulius Mikoliunas and assumed a wide-right berth. The home support weren't slow in voicing their disgust at watching Miko trot towards the technical area instead of Beniusis. Their patience by then had evaporated.
Hibs appeared relatively content to retreat and play counter-attacking football with the Tynecastle attack less than menacing. Murphy saw a curling free-kick expertly palmed away by Banks - a save that maintained hope for Hearts - and Benjelloun drove a fierce shot inches wide in two of the visitors' rare forward forays.
Then came Beniusis' departure, bringing a rousing cheer followed by a barrage of boos from the home support. It was difficult not to feel sympathy for the debutant as he shouldered the full brunt of public frustration, which was soon redirected towards Korobochka and Frail. A total of five Lithuanians will
Despite Michal Pospisil replacing Beniusis, the closing stages were peppered with less-than-inventive high balls from the Hearts defence into Hibs territory. Most of the time this simply handed possession back to the visitors, who mounted a late attack when Alan O'Brien strode down the left only to cross into an empty penalty area.
In many ways the wide open 18-yard box represented a metaphor for Hearts' performance on the night - empty. Injuries to Roman Bednar and Mauricio Pinilla as well as Larry Kingston's suspension robbed them of three of their best players and the coaching staff have yet to fully exorcise the ghost of Eduard Malofeev. But improvement at Pittodrie on Sunday is now essential to prevent dissenting voices increasing in volume.
Taken from the Scotsman
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