London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Hugh Macdonald auth-> Craig Thomson
Zaliukas Marius [S Maloney 6] ;[G Caldwell 19]
7 of 016 ----- L SPL H

Craft and graft at heart of Celtic's 'easy' win

HUGH MacDONALD, Chief Sportswriter November 03 2008

Hearts 0 Celtic 2

It takes a lot of work to make a victory look this easy. There will be questions raised about the quality and commitment of Hearts at Tynecastle yesterday afternoon but both were put into perspective by a Celtic performance that had its solid foundations in industry and its spectacular adornment in flashes of pure technique.

The latter was exemplified by Shaun Maloney's superb strike that set Celtic on the road back to the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League. It followed an Andreas Hinkel free kick that was punched powerfully away from goal by Janos Balogh. Fatally, however, it fell to the feet of the Scottish internationalist who drove it home first time from 25 yards.

Just seven minutes had passed, but the match had been settled not just by Maloney's strike but with the attitude that accompanied, indeed preceded it. Gary Caldwell's scrambled effort, with the aid of a hand, at the back post after Balogh had saved a Scott McDonald header made the deficit simply unassailable for a Hearts side that rarely threatened and never looked to win the individual or collective battles.

The glamour of Manchester United beckons on Wednesday night but this was an afternoon for the working jaicket with the touch of a time-served man. No one personified this mixture of craft and graft more than Barry Robson. There have been doubts about his effectiveness at the highest level of the Champions League but the midfielder was made for afternoons such as this.

He left the field after 76 minutes of effort and no little skill. With Paul Hartley he stamped his authority on the midfield and on the match. Hearts could not compete in this area with Michael Stewart falling far short of the form that brought him a Scotland call-up. His team-mates were devoid of passion off the ball and of enterprise on it.
Champions on easy street after early goal

Tynecastle had been billed as a bear pit in waiting for Celtic. It so often has been in the past but Celtic prospered under the winter sun yesterday afternoon. Robson, Hartley and their fellow workers drew the heat from the fixture with an application of cold professionalism.

One tiny vignette perhaps can explain much. Midway through the first half, after Celtic had ensured that Hearts knew they were playing a side that would not back down, Maloney won a high ball in midfield from Deividas Cesnauskis and then chased the loose ball to win a 50-50 tackle with the Lithuanian winger. One has become accustomed to Maloney's dramatic interventions with ball at feet but his aerial prowess had so far escaped notice.

The little midfielder, though, was surely just following the combative example of Hartley and Robson and the discipline of Scott Brown, who defused any threat Hearts posed on their right flank.

The only slight irritation for Celtic was a missed penalty after six minutes of the second half. Marius Zaliukas had pulled McDonald back as the Australian striker ran on to a Cillian Sheridan flick. Craig Thomson, correctly, awarded both a penalty and a red card to the centre-back. Hartley slid the ball past the right-hand post in the only poor moment of an excellent afternoon for the former Hearts player.

It made a difference to the scoreline, but not the result. Celtic, with a man advantage, continued to work, ensuring that a Hearts comeback only existed in the realm of fantasy. Stripped of the need to score another, Celtic's industry was more than enough to nullify Hearts.

The moments of skill were still almost exclusively performed by those in a hooped jersey with Brown revelling in his return to Edinburgh with an increasing verve and mischief.

There were other major plusses for Celtic. Stephen McManus and Caldwell were tough and unforgiving in central defence. Mark Wilson was superb at left back, matching ferocious tackling with an aptitude for enterprise on the overlap.

Even those who might be considered to have been on the periphery of victory made a contribution. McDonald's effort was unquestioned and his header, after Robson had diverted Hartley's corner, led to the second, clinching goal. His darting run also produced a penalty but this was an afternoon when the striker had few chances but a surfeit of work.

His partner, Sheridan, was rarely influential in an attacking sense but he never tired of chasing lost causes. Christophe Berra, Hearts' best player on the day, comfortably dealt with the youngster but Sheridan showed one or two touches of promises and many of endeavour.

The pace of the match dropped after the sending off of Zaliukas but still Hearts were unable to threaten. McManus and Caldwell stood firm and Artur Boruc grasped everything cleanly. The home side only ever hinted at breaching a resolute Celtic defence. Christian Nade's bulk occasionally caused a minor alarm as did the delivery of Bruno Aguiar but this was as comfortable as it ever can be at Tynecastle for Celtic.

Indeed, the champions were allowed to drop to the level of workmanlike for most of the second half. Victory at Tynecastle was celebrated joyously by the support but for a professional Celtic side this was just another day at the office.

The overtime on Wednesday night promises to be more demanding.

Taken from the Herald

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