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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> Charlie Richmond
Balogh Janos [S Fletcher 14] Soulemayne Bamba
9 of 021 ----- L SPL A

Passion provides Mixu with a derby win at last

WHILE Hibernian may have started and finished this game on the back foot, there were meaningful stretches of play in what was a typically contentious Edinburgh derby – both sides finished with ten men – when Mixu Paatelainen's men mixed a successful cocktail of individual threat and collective desire.

A cameo of second-half action when Lewis Stevenson ran 40 yards to close down Robbie Neilson and prevent the Hearts captain from making a relaxed clearance was typical of a sleeves-up performance. If anything like the same passion had been evident against teams in the bottom six this season, then the gap between Hibs in sixth and Hearts in third would surely have been far less substantial.

This was the Finn's first success as a manager against Hearts and he knew he had the passion of his players to thank for a performance which showed a marked improvement on recent displays in terms of tempo. "You saw their determination and effort," reflected Paatelainen. "It was visible from the back through the midfield to the strikers."

Not that this was, by any means, a flawless effort from either Hibs or their manager. The decision to start the game with Sol Bamba at right-back could have cost the home side all three points on another day. An effective centre-back who can also put in a shift as a holding midfield player, Bamba lacks the positional sense of a full-back and struggled to cope with Andrew Driver's pace and ingenuity.

It was Hibs' good fortune that Driver picked up a hamstring injury and limped off after 26 minutes. The winger is Hearts' most incisive forward and the match might have followed a very different path if Michael Stewart had converted a chance created by Driver in the opening minutes.

During the early stages of the game, when Hearts passed the ball with more assurance and took control of the play in midfield, Hibs relied on flashes of individual ability to threaten the opposition. For example, Derek Riordan's clever break inside from the left flank, ghosting past David Obua, produced a terrific right-foot shot which eluded Janos Balogh but struck the woodwork.

That 25-yard shot lifted the home side's spirits and encouraged Denes Rosa to launch a magnificent crossfield pass in the 14th minute which flew the width of the pitch to Alan O'Brien on the right. The left-footed winger had to check inside before crossing and Lee Wallace was easily beaten. The cross was missed in the air by Eggert Jonsson and Hibs enjoyed the break of the ball when it bounced off Steven Fletcher's shoulder into the net.

Having suffered a dry spell in front of goal when he didn't score for three months, this was the second game running Fletcher was Hibs' matchwinner. The villain of the piece after he was shown a red card for a foul on Christophe Berra the last time the two sides met at Easter Road, the centre-forward was far more comfortable in the role of hero.

Mobile as well as industrious, Fletcher was chasing a clever pass from Colin Nish when Balogh made the reckless choice to play sweeper and haul down the striker with a goalkeeper's tackle. Referee Charlie Richmond took his time before dismissing the goalkeeper.

In what was a feverish finale to the first half in time added on for injury, the unfortunate Bamba was next to go when he barged into Christian Nade. Again, Richmond consulted his fellow officials before showing the red card. If the first instinct was to view that decision as harsh, video replays confirmed the defender took out the striker without playing the ball and denied him a goalscoring opportunity.

If Hibs had to lose any player, on the day Bamba was the one they would have chosen. Earlier, after making a fine tackle on the touchline, he committed the full-back's cardinal sin of passing inside to a crowded penalty box. Nade intercepted but tugged a close-range shot wide when an expert finisher would have dinked the ball over the goalkeeper.

After Paatelainen took off Nish, Hibs were much more composed once David Van Zanten tucked in at right-back. Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo, on the other hand, made the puzzling decision to remove Bruno Aguiar rather than another outfield player in order to accommodate Jamie MacDonald in goal. Having already lost Driver to injury, the removal of the Portuguese playmaker was baffling.

As if that switch wasn't peculiar enough, Laszlo hauled off Michael Stewart with 13 minutes remaining and sent on Adrian Mrowiec. Since Stewart was unlucky not to equalise with a terrific free-kick before half-time and drove Hearts forward in the second period, many wondered if the midfielder, who had been booked, was taken off before he was sent off. The Hearts manager insisted, though, the change was tactical.

Rosa has improved Hibs' play in the middle of the park. The Hungarian, who chatted to Laszlo before the match about Ferencvaros rather than the Edinburgh derby, felt it was an important win. "Hearts wanted to play the ball direct to their front men in the second half," observed the midfielder, "so that was good for us in the middle."

When Fletcher broke clear with a chance to put the game beyond the reach of Hearts, MacDonald showed Balogh the error of his ways. The replacement goalkeeper kept his nerve and made a solid diving save.

Hibs went into their shell towards the end as Hearts pushed forward more in hope than expectation. There was one tempting cross from Saulius Mikoliunas and, from a Christos Karipidis free-kick, Nade headed against the bar. Otherwise, the challenge of chasing the game proved beyond the visitors.


Steven Fletcher (Hibernian)

Apart from his goal, which carried an element of luck, Fletcher was a key figure for Hibs. His movement and the timing of his runs caused Hearts problems and surely caught the eye of the watching Scotland manager, George Burley.

Taken from the Scotsman

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