HEARTS displayed their title credentials as they dismantled the SPL Champions from the previous season thanks to a double by Czech striker Roman Bednar, starting his second season with the Jambos.
Bednar gave only fleeting hints of his capabilities during an injury-ravaged first year in Edinburgh, but it was still sufficient for the Hearts support to take him to, well, their Hearts.
In Hearts’ second match of the season, after a 2-1 away victory over Dunfermline in which Bednar notched his first goal of the season, he went on to torment Celtic. Glancing headers, a goal with his right foot, one with his left foot, and an all-round terrorising of markers Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus illustrated him as the man to shoulder Hearts’ main goalscoring duties.
In the first half chances were at a premium, but Gordon Strachan’s side did fashion one five minutes from the interval when Paul Telfer glided down the right unchallenged and laid the ball into Aiden McGeady. The winger’s step-over allowed it to run through to ex-Hibee Kenny Miller 19 yards out and his low, curling effort was on target until halted by Craig Gordon at the second attempt.
Bruno Aguiar broke from midfield down the left three minutes after the restart to ping over an expert cross for Bednar, but from six yards the Czech glanced wide. He was to wait only seconds to conciliate in combining with his attacking partner Michal Pospisil for the first time in the game.
Pospisil fed Bednar in space in the inside left channel and watched his countryman enter the opposing penalty box and calmly slot the ball low past Artur Boruc from an acute angle. By now, Hearts were well and truly “havin’ a party” as their supporters put it and Bednar was moving another notch nearer that 20-goal target for this season.
He could have secured his second strike in the 62nd minute had offside not been given against him when breaking free to receive Brellier’s pass, a decision that was proven wrong by television evidence. Hearts were made to curse the inaccuracy of far side assistant Gary Cheyne just two minutes later when Miller, McGeady and Stiliyan Petrov exploited Hearts on the break, the Bulgarian taking McGeady’s pass and dispatching it first time beyond a helpless Gordon from the edge of the box.
The equaliser had a reinvigorating effect on Celtic, who had been taken aback by the powerful start made to the second period by their hosts. But Hearts weren’t finished. With three minutes remaining, Celtic substitute Neil Lennon played an audacious back-pass to his goalkeeper who couldn’t get out of the penalty area in time to clear. The ever-alert Bednar was aware of a chance evolving and stole the ball off the toe of Boruc then slotted the ball into an empty net at the Gorgie Road end, before dancing in jubilation down the touchline towards the dugout as he was embraced by his team-mates.
As expected, the final whistle brought an outpouring of relief, most notably from Hearts coach Valdas Ivanauskas in the technical area. A big day had ended, a big result had been achieved, and a big statement posted concerning Hearts’ intentions for the SPL season.