London Hearts Supporters Club

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Anatoly Korobochka <-auth Darryl Broadfoot auth-> Kenny Clark
5 of 007 Andrius Velicka 77 ;Andrius Velicka 86 LC A

Celtic exit after rocky horror show

DARRYL BROADFOOT, Chief Football Writer November 01 2007

Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, Leatherface, Pinhead, Michael Myers: you boys took one hell of a beating. Celtic were slain by Hearts - and Andrius Velicka - in gruesome circumstances in the CIS Insurance Cup fourth round last night. It was an eerie Halloween for the 21,492 Celtic fans who howled in collective horror as the Lithuanian substitute left a bloody trail of destruction.

Celtic were far from innocent victims of this savagery. Gordon Strachan's side were fatally wasteful in front of goal and were left traumatised by the late substitute's belated brutality. He plunged the knife into the hosts within five minutes of entering the field, cold-blooded in his execution as Celtic stood stricken under the misapprehension that Andrew Driver had taken the ball a wander outside the perimeter markings of the pitch.

He haunted Celtic by the end, scoring an emphatic and conclusive second to send the disbelieving audience home in a state of trauma. They have known such a fright before, losing to Falkirk at the same stage last season. The win alleviates the tension surrounding the perennially embattled Hearts and doubles their success rate against Celtic, having recorded only one previous League Cup win in 1954. Of greater relevance to the Tynecastle side was the 5-0 thumping meted out on their last visit to Parkhead. With vengeance reaped, Hearts will now attempt to punish Hibernian at Easter Road.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink returned to Celtic's starting line-up after a five-week absence but the Dutchman looked brittle throughout and retains the infuriating tendency to squirm at the kind of service typical centre-forwards crave. His career in Scottish football has been punctuated by minor ailments but he forms part of Strachan's ideal front partnership with Scott McDonald. It is a curious anomaly that the Australian has enjoyed a goal glut in partnership with Chris Killen.

Shunsuke Nakamura, as predicted, started his leave after succumbing to tendinitis. The Japanese midfielder will be given special dispensation to nurse himself to fitness over the next three weeks but, on this evidence, he will be required to return to the fixture treadmill for the vital Champions League tie against Benfica next week.

Vennegoor of Hesselink's restoration was the only alteration to the side that unpicked Motherwell at the weekend. Hearts had to negotiate the tie without their two most productive outlets, Christian Nade and Laryea Kingston, through suspension and injury respectively but Hearts have a habit of confounding their adversity on the big occasion.

Gary Caldwell had a frantic night at right-back. He was cumbersome in his challenge on Audrius Ksanavicius in the opening minute but the referee, Kenny Clark, duly waved play on and contemptuously at that. Caldwell, who endured a horrid night, sought retribution anyway by dumping the diminutive attacker on his backside seconds later.

Ksanavicius relished the lush good-to-soft turf. Not only did his low centre of gravity cause the rather pedestrian Caldwell difficulty throughout, but the winger loves the theatre of football. Having weaved his way through a penalty box scrimmage, Ksanavicius threw himself aground Hollywood-style to exhaust the patience of the referee after a mere five minutes.

Ksanavicius's nuisance value was Hearts' greatest asset. Scott Brown took it upon himself to test the Lithuanian's temperament after their first encounter. Brown's glowering demeanour and back-chat in moments of perceived injustice is becoming a tiresome act. A handsomely gifted player should learn - or be instructed - to expend his effort more productively. He is becoming the victim of his own crabbitness. When his energy is channelled correctly, Brown is unplayable. He flirted with the notion of midfield dominance last night and produced a commendable stop from the derided French goalkeeper, Anthony Basso, with a dipping effort from a quick free-kick.

This tie was as sloppy as a St Bernard's kiss and had more needle than a pin cushion. Where Hearts were over-reliant on Ksanavicius, Aiden McGeady was Celtic's sole source of encouragement. The winger hared down the left flank at will in a compelling joust with the freshly shorn Robbie Neilson but his team-mates either lost their footing or their bearings on a slick surface.

Lee Naylor retched and gagged his way through a most uncomfortable first half and was unsurprisingly replaced, by Evander Sno, at the interval. Paul Hartley continued his tour of the Celtic team with an emergency shift at left-back. McDonald grew livelier as the game developed and produced an unorthodox save from Basso, who used an outstretched leg to deny the striker.

Celtic monopolised possession but Hearts were threatening on the counter-attack. Some neat work involving McGeady and Brown was unravelled by Sno's lack of finesse in front of goal, while Vennegoor of Hesselink continued to attack crosses like a recoiling vampire. Driver then bore in on Boruc's goal to collect a sublime Michael Stewart pass. The Englishman, though, has a right foot like a hacker's 3-wood.

Another sitter befell Sno as the spectre of extra time loomed but Celtic would pay for their profligacy. Driver trundled the ball down the right touchline and as Celtic pulled-up expecting a throw-in the stand-side assistant, Keith Sorbie, signalled otherwise. Driver cut back for Velicka and with his first touch, the substitute steered a right-foot shot past Boruc.

Celtic bombarded Basso's goal but Hearts survived the terror, Velicka emerging as the Halloween villain in Glasgow's east end with a sublime second.

Taken from the Herald

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