Five things we learned from Hearts’ 4-0 win over Celtic

After a difficult start to the season, things are starting to click at Hearts
After a difficult start to the season, things are starting to click at Hearts
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Hearts fans are still on cloud nine following Sunday’s 4-0 win over Celtic which ended the Glasgow club’s 69-game domestic unbeaten run.

Here, we look at five things we learned from the match ...

MICHAEL SMITH CAN PLAY CENTRE-BACK

Hearts have used the Northern Ireland internationalist at right-back, left-back and wing-back since signing him from Peterborough United in the summer. Sunday was his first outing in central defence and it proved a rousing success. Smith, 29, looked like he had played centre-back throughout his career as he and Christophe Berra successfully stifled Celtic forwards Leigh Griffiths, Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard. Smith’s pace and reading of the game drew praise from manager Craig Levein, who was without recognised centre-back John Souttar through suspension. The veteran Aaron Hughes was on the bench but, because of a persistent calf problem, he was really only there in an emergency. Smith ensured there was no need to deploy him with a strong and commanding performance which mirrored that of his team-mates in the 4-0 victory.

DAVID MILINKOVIC HITTING TOP FORM

Levein said Milinkovic was a player to keep for when Hearts returned to Tynecastle. The winger is now gaining serious momentum after scoring his first two goals in maroon against Celtic. His positional sense is still lacking, hence Levein’s comment that “his head is in the clouds” but his work rate for a foreign creative player is something to behold. Added to that, he possesses a deft touch, skill and a reasonable turn of pace when on the ball. Hearts have the Frenchman on loan from Genoa until the end of the season but Milinkovic plans to speak to the Italian club in January. He has settled well to life in Edinburgh and is now reaching his best form, prompting thoughts of a permanent stay.

HARRY COCHRANE’S TEMPERAMENT AGAINST SCOTT BROWN

The 16-year-old showed plenty gumption with his pre-match statement that he wanted the chance to play against the Celtic captain. He was right to feel confident. Cochrane produced a sweet finish to score his first senior goal, which put Hearts on the road to a memorable win. He also became the club’s youngest-ever league goalscorer. The teenager looked composed and comfortable in central midfield, and whatever he lacked in physique he more than made up for with intelligence.

NEW STAND, INCREASED TYNECASTLE CROWD

The attendance of 18,555 against Celtic was the largest at Tynecastle Park since 24,139 people watched Hearts and Hibs draw 1-1 there on January 12, 1994. The stadium was rebuilt thereafter, reducing its capacity to just over 17,000. The new main stand increases capacity again and Tynecastle will hold more than 20,000 fans when its redevelopment is complete next summer. Those present on Sunday will testify to the noise and atmosphere generated amid a resounding home victory.

HEARTS’ GRADUAL IMPROVEMENT UNDER CRAIG LEVEIN

The manager did say it would take time and that he would try to “fix things”, as he put it, bit by bit. The repair work is slowly having the desired effect as Hearts are now unbeaten in six matches. They have won their last three without losing a goal, culminating in the end of Celtic’s record-breaking 69-game unbeaten run. Levein returned to the dugout in September and endured a difficult start but results are now beginning to come for the former Scotland manager. His influence should not be underestimated, although he still plans to recruit new players in January.