Heart of Midlothian 1 Celtic 2
Ladbrokes Premiership – Wednesday 27th February 2019 – Tynecastle Park
Hearts recent midweek games have been little to write home about but the visit of league champions Celtic to Tynecastle on Wednesday evening at least promised to crank up the atmosphere a notch or two. Particularly as former Hibernian boss Neil Lennon was taking his first game in interim charge of the Hoops in the wake of the departure of Brendan Rodgers to Leicester City yesterday.
Hearts manager Craig Levein has, of course, had the odd spat with Lennon but he spoke warmly about the former Hibs gaffer when Levein had a heart scare back in September. The pair embraced just before kick-off at a packed Tynecastle.
Levein made two changes from the team that didn’t impress against St Mirren at the weekend. Jamie Brandon returned to the team after a long-term injury. Marcus Godhino also returned; Clevid Dikamona and Jake Mulraney stepped aside.
As is usually the case with Hearts-Celtic games the atmosphere was red hot on a balmy evening at Tynecastle.
Hearts looked more dangerous going forward than of late with Uche Ikpeazu causing the Celtic rear-guard all manner of problems.
Sean Clare almost broke the deadlock with a low volley hit first-time which fizzed towards goal only for Celtic keeper Bain to fingertip the ball round the post.
Three minutes later came
Hearts best chance so far. Celtic’s Boyata dithered on the edge of his own penalty
box and Steven Naismith nipped in. The Scotland striker seemed set to score but
he sclaffed his effort wide and the chance was gone. Naismith hasn’t looked himself
in recent games and it was a chance Hearts would rue missing.
As if to prove this point Celtic took the lead on 36 minutes – following a Hearts free kick on the edge of the Celtic penalty box. Olly Lee’s effort cannoned off the Celtic wall. The Hoops broke at pace, Burke crossing for Forrest to stroke the ball home.
Worse was to follow for the home side just before half-time. Jamie Brandon was judged to have made a dangerous challenge on Toljan and was shown a straight red card by referee Steven McLean who, it must be said, didn’t have the best of nights.
As if all this wasn’t enough
Hearts also lost talisman Steven Naismith to injury at half-time with the fear
being the on-loan Norwich City striker has injured his knee again.
To their immense credit the ten men of Hearts took the game to the champions in the second half and were rewarded with an equaliser ten minutes into the second half when Ajer brought down Arnaud Djoum inside the Celtic penalty box. Referee McLean got one of his few decisions of the evening correct by awarding a penalty kick. Substitute Oliver Bozanic sent the Celtic keeper the wrong way and the ten men of Hearts were on level terms.
Despite their numerical advantage the champions looked to have ran out of ideas and Hearts looked dangerous on the counter-attack. With the 90 minutes up and time being added on for injuries – and, it has to be said, time-wasting – the inevitable happened.
Brown hooked the ball into the Hearts penalty box where Edouard was given the freedom of Gorgie Road to fire the ball past Bobby Zlamal – who had performed heroics all evening – to snatch a last gasp winner for Celtic.
It was cruel on Hearts who deserved to take something from the game if only for the huge effort the ten men put in.
Hearts manager Craig Levein told BBC Sport Scotland after the game: “Celtic are a good team and you can never count your chickens. I thought we were just about over the line, but a cross was the one thing I didn’t expect us to lose a goal from.
“Losing Steven Naismith is never an easy thing to cope with but the lads knuckled down and inspired our supporters. I’m really disappointed, especially for the supporters, that we didn’t get a point.”
Hearts: Zlamal, Souttar, Haring, Berra, Lee, Clare, Djoum, Naismith (Bozanic, 46′), Ikpeazu (Vanecek, 79′), Brandon, Godinho (Dikamona, 85′).
Celtic: Bain, Toljan (Lustig, 85′), Bitton, Brown, Sinclair (Weah, 80′), Boyata, Burke, Ajer, Forrest, Henderson (Edouard, 62′), Tierney.
Referee: Steven McLean
Attendance: 18, 258
Top man: Bobby Zlamal