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----- Steven Fletcher
24 of 060 Christian Nade 38 ;Gary Glen 92 SC A

Berra jumped up 'like a brown trout', says Mixu

MIXU Paatelainen blamed Christophe Berra for the dismissal of Hibernian striker Steven Fletcher in yesterday's Edinburgh derby, claiming that the Hearts captain had leapt "like a brown trout" during the incident. The game, a fourth-round tie in the Homecoming Scottish Cup, was goalless when Fletcher was shown the red card by referee Craig Thomson, but Hearts went on to win 2-0 with a goal in either half.
Berra, who had been booked for a foul on Jonatan Johansson just minutes before the incident which led to Fletcher's being sent off, cleared the ball just before the Hibs player reached him. Thomson, who was less than ten yards from the incident, had a clear view as Fletcher slid in and appeared to catch the Hearts captain.

Television replays showed that the tackle appeared worse when viewed from the angle which the match official had. From other angles, the nature of the contact was less clear.

Fletcher's intent was also a question of interpretation, as such matters so often are. Unless a player rushes in at an opponent screaming "I'm going to kill you", referees will invariably decide a late or high tackle was negligent rather than malicious.

Indeed, when the red card was produced, there were many in the stands who argued that it should have been a yellow instead, because they thought Fletcher had at worst been a touch reckless rather than deliberately trying to make contact with Berra. Paatelainen, however, did not believe his player's challenge even merited a booking.

"My opinion doesn't count, but for my liking it's never a sending-off," the Hibs manager said. "Fletcher's foot touches the ground: it never catches Berra at all. Berra jumps like a brown trout and makes things worse for Fletcher.

"I'm disappointed that Fletcher got sent off for nothing. Fletcher's foot touches the ground before he tackles anything. He doesn't even touch him.

"If there is a challenge like that when strikers close down defenders, sometimes they go in a little bit late. You can see whether the striker goes for the ankle, the shin or over the ball or whatever and wants to harm the player.

"But there was nothing like that in that situation at all. I don't think it was even worth a yellow. If the official felt it was dangerous or too much power was used then maybe it was worth a yellow, but definitely not a red."

Berra himself did not deny he had jumped but said he had done so purely for his own safety. "If I'd stayed on my feet he would have caught me quite badly," the centre-back said.

There have been many matches, including the Edinburgh derby, in which a team has fought back from the loss of a man to win. But to do so, a side usually has to show solid organisation and a superior will to win, and yesterday Hibs had neither.

Instead, having lost Fletcher with around half an hour gone in the first half, they then also lost their way. They needed the interval in which to regroup, but by the time it came they were a goal down.

Christian Nade, who had previously only got one goal all season, was the scorer. But Yves Makalambay, the Hibs goalkeeper, was guilty of contributory negligence, as he left his goal unguarded after rushing out to close down the Hearts winger Andrew Driver. Makalambay did not reappear for the second half – because of a hamstring strain, according to Paatelainen, but it must have been tempting to replace the keeper even if he had been fit. Recent signing Grzegorz Szamotulski came on to make his debut, but, after a solid 45 minutes, the Pole showed in stoppage time that he too was capable of misjudgements when he rushed out of goal instead of letting David van Zanten deal with Gary Glen. That allowed Glen to nick the ball past both Hibs men and stroke it into the net to ensure an away win.

Still, although Hibs were not killed off until the dying moments of the match, they had threatened to get back into the contest only intermittently, and had spent much of the second half playing too deep. Rob Jones, their captain and centre-back, tried to rectify that late on by moving upfield to become an auxiliary striker, but there was little he could do.

"When you go down to ten men, space becomes more vast, and I think the midfield at times got a bit overrun," Jones said. "It was difficult to get out. It was important for us as a back four to try and get as high as possible to condense the game, but that wasn't the case. They seemed to get an extra man on the ball, so it was difficult. At times they did pin us back, but our final ball forward wasn't great.

"I think we were on top before (the sending-off]. The first goal was vitally important. It brought them back into the game.

"We're disappointed. There were never two goals in it."

Offering his own general reflections on the match, Paatelainen also claimed his team had been better than Hearts for as long as they had enjoyed numerical parity. "A massive disappointment," he said. "The way we started the match was fantastic. We totally dominated the game, passed the ball well, and we could have scored before the turning point.

"That's what I've just told the boys, that I was delighted (with that beginning to the match]. That's the way we wanted to start.

"When it was 11 against 11 we were by far the better team. Then Fletcher was sent off and it changed the game completely."

What the result did not change was Hibs' dismal record in the Scottish Cup. The last time they beat Hearts in it was 1979, and yesterday was the third occasion since then that the teams have met in the competition. The last time they won the cup, as they will not need to be reminded, was 1902.

In any case, it is hard to agree wholeheartedly with Paatelainen's assessment of the effect of the Fletcher incident. If Hibs were "fantastic" in the opening 29 minutes, Hearts must also have been pretty good to deny them a goal.

And besides, it does not follow that a team which is on top early on will continue to be so until the end. Sides can often run out of steam because they have expended too much energy attempting an early breakthrough, and that might well have happened to the home team yesterday.

As it was, when they were down a man they had to do an awful lot of running just to stand still. Whenever they threatened to do anything, Hearts reeled them in.

Taken from the Scotsman

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