A late penalty and a celebratory pitch invasion for Hibs was enough to sweeten a disappointing season for Mixu Paatelainen’s side.
After only managing to sneak inside the top half of the split by a single point ahead of Motherwell, Hibs’ season went from inconsistent to downright mediocre. With no win in five games for the Hibees and Europe-chasing Hearts beaten by champions Rangers the week before, it was all set up for an engrossing derby day.
Hearts were the first to carve out an opening, when, in the 11th minute, Lee Wallace worked his way in from the left. After the full-back had been tackled, the ball sat up for Calum Elliot on the turn but the striker’s left-foot shot was gathered by Hibs keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay.
Hibs, who were minus several first-team players because of injury and suspension, struggled to get a foothold in the game early on with Steven Fletcher and Derek Riordan increasingly isolated in attack.
The Jambos’ superiority began to show, with Wallace once again troubling the Hibs right flank, at one point collecting a loose ball 30 yards out and blasting a shot narrowly over the bar. It was not all one-way traffic, Riordan threatened the Hearts goal when Alan O’Brien mounted a counter-attack, finding the ex-Celtic striker whose powerful low drive was turned wide by the strong hand of Marian Kello.
Hibs kept up the pressure and O’Brien lifted a superb pass over the top of the Hearts defence to John Rankin, who chested the ball down before firing wide. Just before half-time however, Ma-Kalambay had to be alert when another Elliot shot was fired at him with the keeper saving comfortably.
After the second half got underway it was much the same from both teams as the deadlock seemed to be unbreakable. First, Ma-Kalambay made an impressive block from Andrew Driver as Hearts pressed for the opener, before O’Brien dragged a shot wide after a rare Hibs breakaway.
Hearts’ David Obua then found space to cross from the right but both Elliot and Christian Nade failed to connect, allowing the stretched Hibs defence to clear.
Andrew Driver was presented with a chance just after the hour mark when Ian Murray’s clearance sat up invitingly for a volley and the winger’s powerful shot was well saved by Ma-Kalambay. The momentum was firmly with the home side and Wallace’s cut-back should have been converted by Elliot, but he was put off by the challenge of makeshift defender Steven Thicot.
The breakthrough came 11 minutes from time when Riordan chased a long ball and got in behind Christos Karipidis, who was penalised for his challenge on the Hibs striker and promptly red-carded in his final Edinburgh derby appearance. From the resulting penalty, Riordan rolled the ball into the corner, sending Kello the wrong way.
The goal prompted a brief pitch invasion which meant a short delay, but with Dundee United drawing against Aberdeen, the result allowed United to cut the gap to one point to Hearts, with Hibs nine points adrift of their city rivals.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, Van Zanten, Thicot, Murray, Hanlon, O’Brien, Chisholm, Rankin, Stevenson, Riordan, Fletcher
Hearts: Kello, Neilson, Karapidis, Obua, Zaliukas, Wallace, Stewart, Jonsson, Aguiar, Driver, Elliot