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|<-Page||<-Team||Sun 02 Nov 2008 Hearts 0 Celtic 2||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Scotsman ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|Csaba Laszlo||<-auth||Glenn Gibbons||auth->||Craig Thomson|
|Zaliukas Marius||[S Maloney 6] ;[G Caldwell 19]|
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Celtic have it all their own way against punchless Hearts
The victory, which would have been more emphatic had Paul Hartley not missed the penalty kick awarded when Zaliukas was sent off, took Celtic three points clear of Rangers once again in the Premier League and extended Hearts' unimpressive statistics in recent times to one win in seven matches. There was never the slightest possibility of another from the moment Shaun Maloney – joined in the scoring later by Gary Caldwell – gave Celtic the lead.
That goal from Maloney managed to light up a stadium that was already dazzled by a brilliant late autumn sun, the suddenness and extraordinary control of the little striker's execution taking the breath away. Nobody could have anticipated what would happen next when Janos Balogh moved out to meet a free kick from Andreas Hinkel on the right and fist the ball to what the Hearts goalkeeper would presume to be a safe area.
To his consternation, Maloney took the ball right-footed on the drop volley and, from around 28 yards, sent it powerfully over the heads of the assembly in front of him and high into the net. It was the first attempt on goal by either side – the match not having had the chance to settle into a pattern – and it was spectacularly effective.
If the home supporters were shocked and depressed by what happened then, however, they would be inflamed by the manner in which Caldwell doubled the visitors' advantage. Hartley's corner kick from the left was knocked towards the far post by Barry Robson, Balogh making an astonishing point-blank save from McDonald's header.
The ball than came up and struck Caldwell's hand and, when it dropped, the Celtic defender drove it over the line. The incident occurred in a ruck of players, almost certainly obscuring the views of referee Craig Thomson and linesman Lawrence Kerrigan of an 'offence' which appeared to have been accidental.
Of more concern to the home fans, however, would be their team's lack of competitiveness throughout a first half in which the champions appeared comfortable with and without the ball, even if there was no sustained, pronounced pressure in the Hearts half of the field. A two-goal lead affords the luxury of containment without desperation.
That latter emotion would descend on Hearts soon after the start of the second half, however, when Zaliukas was given his red card. A long ball from defence was headed on by Cilian Sheridan and McDonald was on the point of sprinting in behind the Hearts defender when he pulled the little striker to the ground. The dismissal was inevitable, but the penalty kick awarded simultaneously was more debatable, as the foul seemed to have been committed just outside the box, McDonald landing inside the line. Hartley would put an end to claims of injustice by pulling the attempted conversion wide of Balogh's right-hand post.
The home players, to their credit, responded to the loss of Zaliukas with a challenge that was appreciably more robust than the one they had presented when they had a full complement. There was also, unquestionably, an element of their visitors easing back on the throttle, conserving energy for future obligations, but Hearts also moved the ball more fluently and more accurately than they had for the previous 51 minutes.
There were even one or two minor scares around the visitors' goal, most notably when Bruno Aguiar's corner kick from the left was met by Christophe Berra beyond the far post, the big defender sending the header wide. But Celtic's general comfort was signified by Gordon Strachan's being able to manipulate substitutes to suit his wishes, as opposed to his needs.
While Csaba Laszlo – he had been forced to replace the injured Deividas Cesnauskis with Saulius Mikoliunas in the first half – put on Jamie Mole for Christian Nade and Ruben Palazuelos for Aguiar in a hopeful attempt at salvage, his counterpart was able to withdraw Maloney and give Aiden McGeady some exercise, remove Robson and replace him with Massimo Donati and, near the end, give Paddy McCourt a run out in place of McDonald. The overall lack of a threat to their taking the points back to Glasgow would also allow Strachan the luxury of keeping Shunsuke Nakamura on the bench for the duration. As a native of Edinburgh, even the Celtic manager may have been surprised that any return visit to his home town could be so rewarding.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Shaun Maloney (Celtic)
Always busy and keeping opponents on the turn with his forward surges, the Celtic winger capped his performance with an exceptional goal.
Strachan infuriated after supporter fires abuse at him in dressing-room area
HEARTS yesterday began an investigation into the offensive behaviour of a supporter towards Celtic manager Gordon Strachan in the wake of the Parkhead side's 2-0 victory. Strachan was clearly infuriated by the incident, which he claimed "has never happened to me at any club before."
Having completed his post-match press conference, the manager was standing talking to a journalist between the dressing-room area and the media centre at Tynecastle, when a man, coming from the direction of the hospitality suites, directed an eight-letter obscenity at him.
"Strachan, you're an a*******," he said and continued towards the main door exit. Strachan called after him, "Hey, you don't say these things to people and walk away. Why don't you say it to my face?"
But the insult thrower hurried off, as Strachan turned his anger on the Hearts steward who tried to offer an apology, commenting on the laxness of the club's security.
"Your security shouldn't allow morons like that just to walk around here freely," said Strachan. "That's a ridiculous thing to happen.
"Nothing like this has ever happened to me at any other club I have visited." The steward apologised for his temporary absence from his 'post' when the incident happened, having been attending to another matter.
A Hearts spokesman confirmed later that the investigation had already begun, doubtless involving inquiries at the hospitality suites. "I can confirm that the matter is already being looked into," said the spokesman. "It seems the person involved emerged from one of the corporate hospitality lounges. When the person is identified, appropriate action will be taken."
It was a jarring ending to the afternoon for Strachan, who had seen his side regain the top place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier league with a comfortable victory over Hearts, the latter dropping to eighth place as a result of a dismal run that has produced just one win in their last seven matches.
Celtic took a two-goal lead in the first half through Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell, and Hearts were down to 10 men early in the second, when central defender Marius Zaliukas was ordered off for denying Scott McDonald a clear scoring opportunity.
For Strachan, the relatively undemanding outing would be the more welcome for allowing him to "pace" his players before the Champions League Group E match at home to Manchester United on Wednesday. Shunsuke Nakamura, for example, was not required to come off the substitutes' bench, leaving him fresh for the meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
"It was a very pleasing day," said Strachan. "We started with a determination that said, 'We're not going to get beat here today.' Then we got the early goal from Shaun (Maloney) and we were comfortable, apart from the odd set piece. You'd expect that here, because it's the land of the giants.
"Then we got the second goal and they had a man sent off and I suppose we dropped down a couple of gears. I'm not blaming my players for that, because, in the circumstances, it's understandable. They probably were thinking about the United match on Wednesday."
Taken from the Scotsman
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