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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Andrew Lomax auth-> Craig Thomson
[J Hesselink 1]
21 of 030 Bruno Aguiar 32 L SPL H

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan appreciates battling point at Hearts

By Andrew Lomax

The Clydesdale Bank Premier League leaders got off to a flying start when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink volleyed home an Andreas Hinkel cross after 26 seconds, with the aid of a fumble by Hearts goalkeeper Janos Balogh.

Hearts responded strongly and Artur Boruc got nowhere near Bruno Aguiar’s 30-yard free-kick before a tight second half could have gone either way.

Strachan had shown his respect for Hearts by bringing in Glenn Loovens for Marc Crosas and putting Gary Caldwell in central midfield, while the flair of Shunsuke Nakamura was sacrificed for the endeavour of Willo Flood.

And the Celtic manager admitted there is only so much visiting teams can do to temper the aggression and energy of matches against Hearts at an almost-full Tynecastle.

“It’s very hard when the ball is going up to strikers and falling down and you have got to try to bring the ball down and create a counter-attack,” Strachan said. “But once the game died, we did do that.”

He added: “It’s frantic. And also you have to look at the fact that they have about eight players 6ft and over and you have to deal with that as well.

“They use their weapons well, I’m not complaining about the way they football. I’m just saying they use their weapons well and there’s a contrast in styles.

“And trying to play when there’s a chance to play is fine. I like coming here, I think it’s good fun.

“You know you’re going to get something, decisions from the referee, tackles, good goals. Their goal was a good one, ours was probably a bit scrappy. Nakamura goes on and lights the place up again, Crosas goes on and strolls through the game. So there was a lot of good things going on.”

Nakamura and fellow sub Koki Mizuno both missed good chances from inside the penalty box in the closing minutes and Strachan felt that showed his team had the edge.

Rangers later reduced their lead at the top of the table to one point but Celtic will not face many tougher tests in the final six matches of the campaign.

“At the end of the season we’ll find out if it was a good point but at the moment we’re feeling not too bad about ourselves,” Strachan said.

“Sometimes you can score a bit too early and they have got to have a right good go at you. They had a good first half but the second half I was really pleased.

“The opportunities all fell to us but on the day we couldn’t take them, which is fine, technique is technique.

“In determination level, both teams gave it a right good go. But, if you look at the stats and shots, I think we won that game.”

Celtic’s medical staff have some work to do before next weekend’s visit of Aberdeen. Strachan was without Darren O’Dea and Georgios Samaras while there was still no sign of Paul Hartley despite the midfielder declaring himself fit after a hamstring injury.

Scott Brown played through an ankle injury and Stephen McManus tried to do the same until Strachan forced him to come off at half-time.

The point took Hearts another step closer to their third-place target and they are confident of picking up plenty more points, according to midfielder Michael Stewart.

“We now believe we’re capable of taking on the top teams in the league and giving a good show of ourselves, and more often than not we can pick up three points,” he told Hearts TV.

“We are never going to catch Rangers or Celtic but we have got to look at closing the gap on them. If we do that, then inevitably we’ll take third place.”

Taken from

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