Hearts debrief: Beni Baningime's debut, key Robbie Neilson move, the sounds of Tynecastle Park
A look back as Hearts got their league season off to a flying start with a 2-1 defeat of Celtic at a raucous Tynecastle Park.
Player of the match
John Souttar was immense. Craig Halkett was solid. Craig Gordon was Craig Gordon. But Beni Baningime produced one of the great Tynecastle debuts. At the base of the midfield, he was everywhere. The 22-year-old had signed just two days before the game but displayed his ball-winning ability. He reacted to loose balls instinctively, he nicked the ball away and tackled instinctively. Every road Celtic turned down, he was the dead end.
For large periods of the game, Hearts had to chase the ball, defending deep in their own half. Some would have concluded that swapping Gary Mackay-Steven for Peter Haring was a negative move. It was the opposite. The Austrian helped Robbie Neilson’s men get a foothold in the match and build, with Armand Gnanduillet latterly providing a nuisance factor off the bench.
Bobby Madden and his assistants faced the wrath of the home support on a few occasions when free-kicks, corners or offsides didn’t go Hearts’ way. A real sense of normality. The Tynecastle side did get away with an offside when Greg Taylor was flagged just before he set up Liel Abada. On second viewing Michael Smith was playing him onside. Andy Halliday also escaped a card despite a cynical challenge on Callum McGregor when Celtic broke.
Benefit of hindsight
January transfer window 2020. Sign Craig Gordon. Forget about any other position, just sign Craig Gordon. Hearts wouldn’t have found themselves bottom of the Premiership come the end of the campaign. A reliable goalkeeper is important. Very important. As he continues to show again and again.
Moment you may have missed
It’s a moment we have all missed during the last 16 arduous months. The sounds of football. The hubbub on arriving at games. Hearts fans cheering the names of the players as stadium announcer Scott Wilson reads them out. The opposition booed onto the park. The songs, the noise, the atmosphere. Sometimes the renowned Tynecastle Park atmosphere can go missing but at times against Celtic it sounded like 50,000 rather than 5,000. So much so Neilson credited the fans with the winning goal. Fans make football fun.