London Hearts Supporters Club

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Anatoly Korobochka <-auth Graham Spiers auth-> Kenny Clark
7 of 007 Andrius Velicka 77 ;Andrius Velicka 86 LC A

Spectacular Andrius Velicka turns tie on its head

Celtic 0 Heart of Midlothian 2

Graham Spiers

With his head down and vivid, animal-like charging runs, Andrius Velicka has had a habit of scoring barnstorming goals for Heart of Midlothian. The Lithuania striker, having just taken the field as a substitute, did it again in dramatic fashion at Celtic Park last night, scoring two memorable goals as Hearts shunted Celtic aside to claim their place in the semi-finals of the CIS Cup.

Velicka had just taken the place of Calum Elliot when he curled a lovely shot past Artur Boruc from 16 yards after 76 minutes. The goal smacked of controversy, Andrew Driver appearing to have run the ball out of play before supplying the pass that set up the strike, though the Hearts legions in Glasgow were hardly caring. In a bitter season for them, this was an ecstatic moment.

Something better was only minutes away. Beating Celtic by only a goal away can be deemed lucky – grabbing two seems much more haughty. After 84 minutes Velicka tried his luck again, this time whacking a shot past a startled Boruc from the edge of the area. This time, such was Velicka’s venom, the ball almost seemed to zoom clean through the goalkeeper’s hands.

The irony was, in as much as it was possible to fathom Hearts, these had been trying times. Their vocal support at Celtic Park said more about faith and loyalty than any enjoyment of recent days, the Tynecastle men taking this cup-tie off the back of two successive league defeats that have plunged them to eighth in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

This, on top of the shambolic business at Kilmarnock on Saturday of no one of any authority in the Hearts dugout being able to speak the Queen’s English after Stephen Frail’s red card. So Hearts were desperately seeking a tonic.

There had been an early sprightliness about them last night that petered out almost as dramatically as it appeared. The visiting team saw plenty of the ball, feeding Audrius Ksnavicius down the left and Driver down the right, which initially caused Celtic to be on their guard. Yet it wasn’t good to get hopes up here: this proved to be a game with long periods bereft of goalmouth incident.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – long in name but short on fitness – made a return for Celtic after five weeks out with a hamstring injury. The poor Dutchman, alas, was seen to lumber around in slightly pained fashion. This, at least, could not be said for Aiden McGeady, by far Celtic’s most perky player. He lit up the game with a series of scampering initiatives.

McGeady has been ordered by Gor-don Strachan, the Celtic manager, to show more directness and aggression on the ball and he exhibited these and more in a bold first half from the little winger. First, McGeady ran and ran towards the Hearts box, repeatedly beating away the chasing Michael Stewart with commendable doggedness, before looping his shot wide of Anthony Basso’s left post. Then, after half an hour, the winger repeated just such a thrust before teasing the ball –inside for Scott McDonald, who blew his shot over the bar.

Amid all this, Hearts had started brightly but then seemed to fade. Ksnavicius was booked by Kenny Clark, the referee, for diving in the Celtic box, and the Lithuanian hardly raised a whimper in accepting his punishment. It was strange, after their bright beginning, to witness the way Hearts quickly became tame.

The best chance of the opening period arrived after 42 minutes, when Paul Hartley worked a quick free kick to Scott Brown, whose shot might have stung Basso’s fingers as the goalkeeper tipped the effort over the bar. Just seconds later, Hartley, the former Hearts hero, took a corner right in front of the visiting supporters from Edinburgh and received a right royal raspberry from most of them. It was a very commendable piece of abuse.

Celtic were forced to replace the injured Lee Naylor with Evander Sno at half-time, which meant shunting Hartley to left back and giving Hearts – and Driver in particular – the fresh scent of prey down that flank. Once again Hearts resumed with a certain determination about them, yet both Driver, who clean missed, and Elliot, whose shot was saved by Boruc, fluffed good opportunities.

At the other end Basso saved the visiting team with a robust block from McDonald, then, after 66 minutes, the Hearts goalkeeper again stretched to save from Massimo Donati. At last, the game seemed to open up.

Hearts dramatically snatched the lead after 76 minutes, and in controversial circumstances. Driver, charging down the right, appeared to run the ball out of play, but a linesman waved him on. From Driver’s cross, Velicka, newly on the field, turned and shot sweetly past Boruc from 15 yards.

It was the calm before the storm. Enter Velicka and a memorable finish.

Celtic (4-4-2): A Boruc – G Caldwell, J Kennedy, S McManus, L Naylor (sub: E Sno, 46min)– S Brown, M Donati, P Hartley, A McGeady – J Vennegoor of Hesselink (sub: C Killen, 71), S McDonald. Substitutes not used: J Jarosik, J O’Brien, M Brown.

Heart of Midlothian (4-1-4-1): A Basso – R Neilson, C Berra, I Tall, J Goncalves – M Zaliukas (sub: E Jonsson, 63) – A Driver, R Palazuelos, M Stewart, A Ksnavicius – C Elliot (sub: A Velicka, 74). Substitutes not used: L Wallace, S Mikoliunas, E Kurskis. Booked: Ksnavicius.

Referee: K Clark.

Taken from

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