Craig Beattie’s stoppage-time penalty, awarded for handball against Joe Ledley, sent Hearts through the the final after a raucous climax to their Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic.
Hearts could have taken the lead after just 23 seconds, courtesy of some truly dozy defending by the cup holders. After Glenn Loovens’ hesitancy allowed Scott Robinson to charge the ball down, Kelvin Wilson was woefully short with an attempted pass back to goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Stephen Elliott, deployed as the lone front man in a 4-5-1 formation by Hearts boss Paulo Sergio, pounced on the loose ball and raced into the penalty area. Fortunately for Celtic, Forster was more alert than his central defenders and advanced to make a blocking save at the expense of a corner.
Hearts’ game plan was highly dependent on the ball-winning tenacity of Ian Black as they sought to subdue Celtic’s midfield creativity. But Black could count himself a little fortunate not to have his afternoon cut short in the 21st minute. Charlie Mulgrew was booked for a foul on Black who, in the same incident, then caught Joe Ledley with a follow through studs-up challenge. Referee Euan Norris, who did not initially appear to see Black’s misdemeanour, eventually reproduced his yellow card for the Hearts man.
It took Celtic until the 41st minute to record their first effort on target, Kris Commons’ shot was comfortably held by Jamie MacDonald, but they should have gone ahead on the stroke of half-time when Ki Sung Yueng contrived to head Lustig’s cross against a post from no more than four yards out.
It proved a costly miss as Hearts made the breakthrough two minutes into the second half. Beattie replaced Robinson and joined Elliot up front. The change reaped a rich dividend, Beattie helping Black’s pass into the path of Skacel, who rounded Forster and swept a left-foot shot high into the net for his 14th goal of the season. Having further cemented his already iconic status with the Hearts fans, Skacel was denied a spectacular second goal when his 30-yard left foot shot was kept out by Forster’s fine diving save. The introduction of Anthony Stokes for Samaras enlivened Celtic in the final half hour. The pressure on Hearts intensified, MacDonald saving well from Commons and Mulgrew, while Ki again headed against a post from close range. Just as the Hearts fans were striking up their celebratory tunes, Celtic equalised in the 87th minute. Gary Hooper escaped his markers to head home Mulgrew’s cross from close range, albeit amid suspicion of him being in an offside position.
The momentum seemed to be with Celtic at that stage but it was Hearts who plundered a dramatic late winner. A shot from Marius Zaliukas struck Ledley’s elbow and referee Norris pointed to the spot – much to the anger of Celtic. Beattie smashed the kick straight down the middle to beat Forster and was duly booked for his wild celebrations. Even then, the drama was not over as Celtic screamed for their own penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time for handball against Webster. Norris, however, was unmoved, judging the ball to have struck the defender’s midriff.
Hearts: Macdonald, McGowan, Grainger, Webster, Barr, Zaliukas, Robinson, Black, Elliott, Skacel, Driver.