Goalkeepers have a huge hand in Edinburgh derby as Hearts and Hibs play out an entertaining match at Tynecastle
Goalkeeping art rose to the fore in the season’s first Edinburgh derby as Hearts and Hibs played out an entertaining but goalless draw at Tynecastle Park.
Both teams preserved their unbeaten records thanks to respective No.1s Craig Gordon and Matt Macey, who both made several breathtaking stops during the 90 minutes. Had they not done so, this game could easily have ended 3-3 or 4-4.
Hearts were playing their first game as a fan-owned club following Foundation of Hearts’ acquisition of a majority shareholding from Ann Budge. It was entirely appropriate that Gordon, a Jambo since childhood, should be such a major factor in the outcome.
Saves to deny Martin Boyle and Kyle Magennis were the pick of his afternoon as Hibs created a number of scoring opportunities at the home of their rivals. Macey was equally impressive, evinced by stopping Gary Mackay-Steven strikes on two occasions, plus a late intervention to avoid an inadvertent own goal by Paul Hanlon.
A point each leaves the two Capital clubs sitting joint-second in the Premiership table behind Rangers. The were entitled to leave Gorgie feeling slightly disappointed not to win, however the value of having such accomplished keepers is partly why they enjoy such lofty league positions.
This was a typical Edinburgh derby with no quarter asked or given. It was played in competitive but fair fashion generally and, despite the lack of goals, could be considered a good advert for Scottish football with Sky Sports broadcasting it live throughout Britain.
While confrontations raged on the field of play, there was also something of a battle taking place in the technical area. Robbie Neilson and Jack Ross, the respective managers and former work colleagues at Riccarton, seemed to be striving to outdo one another with their attire.
Both were tailored smartly befitting their status as two of Scotland’s top coaches and, in truth, it was difficult to decide who was the better dressed on the day. Any advantage in an Edinburgh derby matters and both men were clearly kitted out for the occasion.
The Hibs players carried a slightly unfamiliar look at Tynecastle wearing their away strip but Hearts donned their traditional maroon. Both sides knew victory would take them clear at the top of the league so there was no lack of incentive, or hype, surrounding this fixture.
Supporters packed into Gorgie, including a full compliment of visiting Hibs fans in the Roseburn Stand. It made for a tumultuous atmosphere as the teams emerged – the kind of noise missed across Scottish stadia for too long due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Hearts, of course, suffered an enforced relegation and Court of Session battle during that time before winning the Championship title and promotion back to where they belong. This was the acid test of a city derby against their biggest rivals as a Premiership club once again.
Hibs enjoyed a positive start before Hearts forward Ben Woodburn drove the game’s first goal attempt narrowly over Macey’s crossbar. Liam Boyce’s header from Stephen Kingsley’s ball also landed just high. In between, Joe Newell’s arcing cross clipped the goalframe at the opposite end.
It had been a predictably mental opening with little time for nicely-constructed aesthetic football. The giant Macey was left with rasping palms when Gary Mackay-Steven struck from 25 yards. Hearts were gaining more control thanks to the influential Beni Baningime in midfield allied to Woodburn in attack.
Yet they still had to be careful when the opposition ventured forward. Gordon’s stunning save from Boyle’s drive on 34 minutes was very much the equal of Macey’s from Mackay-Steven ten minutes earlier.
With half-time looming, Boyle sprinted clear of Baningime to unleash a vicious right-footed shot which forced Gordon to dive down and touch the ball past his right post.
The open nature of this game continued after the break. Magennis should have punished a slack pass out of defence by the Hearts centre-back John Souttar, but he could only shoot straight at Gordon.
Seconds later, an even clearer chance fell to Mackay-Steven from Woodburn’s threaded ball inside the Hibs penalty area. Macey produced a breathtaking save from the winger’s right-footed effort.
The visiting goalkeeper was called upon again when Hearts’ debutant substitute Barrie McKay and fellow replacement Josh Ginnelly combined. Macey beat the latter’s header away following McKay’s cross ball.
Then came Gordon's turn once more. From Kevin Nisbet’s run and cross, Magennis arrived for a shot which was netbound until the Scotland keeper sprung to his right and pushed it to safety.
With ten minutes remaining this encounter was very much there for the taking. Both teams sensed the opportunity of a priceless victory whilst also remaining mindful that losing a goal so late on would make a recovery very difficult.
Hearts supporters grew increasingly angry at referee Nick Walsh’s decisions, a series of free-kicks having gone against their team.
In the dying moments, Cochrane’s cross ricocheted off Paul Hanlon and up towards the Hibs crossbar. Macey’s agility ensured he tipped it over to prevent a late calamity for Ross and his team.
The final whistle brought the season’s first Edinburgh derby to a close with the teams unable to be separated.
Hearts (3-4-3): Gordon; Souttar, Halkett, Kingsley; M Smith (Moore 66), Baningime, Haring, Cochrane; Woodburn (McKay 71), Boyce, Mackay-Steven (Ginnelly 62).
Hibs (3-4-1-2): Macey; McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon; Cadden (Wright 87), Magennis, Newell, Doig; Scott (Gogic 46); Boyle, Nisbet.