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Paulo Sergio <-auth richard wilson auth-> Craig Thomson
13 of 028 Ryan Stevenson 39 ;Andy Webster 69L SPL H

Sergio maintains derby dominance

richard wilson at tynecastle

29 Aug 2011


PAULO SERGIO has now taken emotional possession of the manager's job at Hearts. He only replaced Jim Jefferies 27 days ago, and there was a rush of scepticism following the 5-0 defeat by Tottenham in the Europa League play-off.

Yet a derby victory cleanses a reputation, and the Hearts supporters were chanting Sergio's name long before the end of this encounter. When he responded with a small wave, the acclaim only grew.

In his efforts to refine Hearts' style of play, he might write this game off as a temporary diversion. There was little room for strategising in the frantic clamour. Minds were cluttered by the atmosphere, and at times the players were acting on instinct alone.

Sergio has been involved in games between Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, so the fraught nature of this encounter would not have been unsettling, but the victory will mean more to him than his team's display.

Hearts were robust and vehement, with their sheer force of will enough to overcome their city rivals. The assertiveness was needed, though, because the occasion was typically intense.

Hibernian were meek in the way they were twice pressurised into conceding goals, and the triumph was shaped by the doggedness of Sergio's players, rather than their guile. As he greeted each one of them after the final whistle, he might have been thanking them for the wholehearted nature of their commitment.

The frenzy was momentarily delayed. A green flare was thrown onto the pitch before kick-off and as the smoke belched from it, a fury built up in the stands. Soon enough, Ivan Sproule was booked after challenging Danny Grainger with his foot raised dangerously.

He spent the rest of the first half accumulating needless and messy fouls, as if he could not quell his own impetuosity. Colin Calderwood, the Hibs manager, must have cringed with every indiscretion, and he puffed his cheeks out in relief after Callum Booth's mistake in being caught in possession did not lead to anything. The sense was of a game that was too edgy to allow any shrewd thinking.

Even heading down the touchline to do their warm-ups was an ordeal for the Hibs players, as it involved passing in front of the home fans. It was like running a gauntlet of hate, and Victor Palsson responded by running two V-shaped fingers up and down the side of his face, much to the indignation of the supporters who had been raining abuse in him.

The game offered little respite, because the demand was for it to be a constant skirmish. Hearts, too, were occasionally fraught, usually when Marius Zaliukas was passing out of defence. Sergio has instructed his team to build up play from the back, but Zaliukas was often uncertain.

When he hit the ball straight to Sproule, and the Hibs winger skipped over his sliding tackle, Zaliukas lay on the turf looking aghast. He was saved by Sproule's inability to cross the ball properly, with two attempts blocked before he conceded a goal-kick.

Scoring opportunities were rare amid the intensity of effort, and tended to be scrambled. Sproule delivered one cross, with the outside of his right foot, but Garry O'Connor headed wide. Andrew Driver then hit a right-foot shot straight at Graham Stack from an awkward angle.

Neither side was able to dominate, but Hibs looked the most uncomfortable under pressure. Their fragility was self-inflicted, and Matt Thornhill was only playing to type when he was robbed of the ball by Jamie Hamill. The full-back swapped passes with Ian Black before delivering a low, hard cross that Ryan Stevenson turned into the net.

Calderwood looked nonplussed as he stood with his back to the dugout. His team lost two goals at home to St Mirren last weekend as the result of individual errors, and they could only regret their scrambled senses here. Every player was susceptible to recklessness, though, and Stevenson caught Ian Murray with a heavy and ill-judged tackle just before the interval that saw him booked.

It was the home side whose boundless energy also carried a threat, though, and they almost scored a second when Elliott's shot hit the post and Driver's effort from the rebound was cleared off the line.

Calderwood brought on two strikers in Leigh Griffiths and Akpo Sodje. Griffiths only joined Hibs on loan from Wolves on Saturday, but as a supporter of the club he was attuned to the emotive nature of the encounter and was soon booked for a foul on Hamill.

Fierceness could still be rewarded and as Hamill's corner flew into a crowded penalty area, Andy Webster's brawn and determination saw him head towards goal. The ball was cleared, only for Eggert Jonsson to convert the rebound, although Webster's header looked to have crossed the line.

Hearts were jubilant and all that the visitors could rouse was a crude defiance. Sodje at least had the excuse that he was trying to win the ball when he leapt, with both feet raised, at Kello, leaving the Hearts goalkeeper poleaxed.

It was an ugly challenge, and Kello later had to be replaced by Jamie MacDonald. O'Connor then caught Hamill with a brutal foul, and was also booked.

By then, all Hibs had left was a sense of deep frustration.

Scorers: Stevenson (40), Jonsson (69)

Taken from the Herald

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