London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> Charlie Richmond
[S McManus 79]
10 of 032 Andrew Driver 23 L SPL A

Lazlo's side prove their mettle

A ROUSING display from a spirited Hearts side secured a valuable point against Celtic and ensured they are now undefeated in six matches. If anyone had any lingering doubts over the mettle of Csaba Laszlo's side prior to this visit to Parkhead, they were emphatically silenced by a clever and thoroughly professional performance.
Andy Driver scored the visitors' first-half goal, a precise and calm finish from around six yards, but Celtic's second-half onslaught rewarded them with an equaliser from Stephen McManus. For long spells, particularly before the interval, the hosts found themselves outplayed but regrouped during the break to eventually dissect the resilient Hearts defence.

It would not have been undue had Hearts returned east with all three points, such was the quality and invention they displayed. Listless Celtic were fortunate not to be further behind at half-time, but both clubs are likely to accept a point apiece after an enthralling afternoon's entertainment.

Hearts had arrived at one of Scottish football's most hostile cauldrons hoping to prolong a sequence of five consecutive victories but had to contend with Michael Stewart's absence through illness. Eggert Jonsson replaced Lee Wallace at left-back from the side which defeated Rangers two weeks ago while, in goal, Jamie MacDonald made way for Janos Balogh in perhaps the most intriguing decision of the afternoon. Celtic recalled Scott McDonald in place of Georgios Samaras on a day when a Jimmy Johnstone statue was unveiled to the crowd, recognition of the late winger's contribution to the Glasgow club.

After a subdued and incohesive opening period, Hearts' Marius Zaliukas tried an attempt from 25 yards which powered past Artur Boruc's right post. Celtic commanded territorial advantage initially as the visitors sought to utilise their counter-attacking pace, however neither side could be described as fluent. This situation suited Hearts considerably more than their hosts and they soon moved ahead through Driver's calm, collected finish.

Larry Kingston, taking a pass from Bruno Aguiar, manoeuvered from his right-sided beat into the penalty area and stroked the ball across the face of goal. Driver had eluded his marker at the back post and fooled Boruc into going to ground before clipping a classy conversion over the flapping Pole. As the Hearts players gathered to celebrate by their technical area, Csaba Laszlo berated Aguiar for his ponderous opening to the match and implored the talismanic Portuguese to show greater urgency in possession.

Driver forced a crucial save from Boruc on 35 minutes, scampering clear of the Celtic defence to angle a left-footed shot across the goalkeeper's bow after Gary Caldwell surrendered possesion. A second goal at that stage would have sent Parkhead's already restless natives into unadulterated fury, and Boruc deserved praise for his intervention at the end of a trying week.

As half-time approached Hearts remained in command. Driver's tormenting of Andy Hinkel at times was embarrassing and the visiting defence, ably protected by Ruben Palazuelos and Christos Karipidis, was as resolute as it has ever been in recent seasons. The paucity of Celtic's first-half display was emphasised by their solitary attempt at Balogh's goal, a wayward 30-yarder from Hinkel which flew into the crowd. It was little surprise to hear boos emanating from the home support at the break.

Having doubtless been exposed to Gordon Strachan's adaptation of the hairdryer treatment, Celtic emerged with renewed vigour for the second half. Hinkel's willingness to let Driver drift into dangerous wide positions remained, however, and this was Hearts' principal attacking outlet. Time and again the Englishman sprinted clear as Hinkel refused to learn a telling lesson. Inside, Caldwell and McManus had little answer to Christian Nade's strength in possession as he again proved a colossus in attack.

Kingston was withdrawn by Csaba Laszlo on the hour mark to avoid a needless sending off. Having been cautioned for persistent fouling, he then impeded Aiden McGeady and a sensible alteration was conducted to spare any further damage. David Obua was the replacement.

Celtic increased their momentum thereafter and began a period of concerted pressure which forced Hearts deep into their own territory. Samaras ought to have levelled the score on 69 minutes as Marius Zaliukas lost concentration and, with that, the striker he was supposed to mark. Robbie Neilson effected a timely tackle to deny the Greek, and seconds later Zaliukas redeemed himself by taking the ball off McDonald's toe as the Australian prepared to strike. Lee Naylor's distant effort on 72 minutes, Celtic's first shot on target, nestled in Balogh's arms, causing Gordon Strachan to become even more animated in front of the home dugout.

The pressure eventually told on Hearts as they conceded an equaliser on 79 minutes. Shunsuke Nakamura's deep cross from the right was nodded across goal by Georgios Samaras for McManus to stoop and convert from four yards, and so began the tension-filled closing moments.

Jonsson's miss-kick saw McDonald send an impromptu shot narrowly wide, and McGeady's speculative effort followed suit. That apart there was surprisingly little to concern Hearts and they departed for Edinburgh with a creditable and thoroughly deserved point.

Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Wilson; Nakamura, S Brown, Hartley, McGeady; McDonald, McGeady. Subs: M Brown, Samaras 29 (for Maloney), Sheridan, Crosas, O'Dea, Mizuno, Naylor 65 (for Wilson).

Hearts (4-4-1-1): Balogh; Neilson, Zaliukas, Berra, Jonsson; Kingston, Karipidis, Palazuelos, Driver; Aguiar; Nade. Subs: MacDonald, Makela, Obua 60 (for Kingston), Cesnauskis 65 (for Aguiar), Mole 90 (for Nade), Thomson, Rapnik.

Referee: Charlie Richmond.

Taken from the Scotsman

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