Hearts debrief: Bizarre officiating, Colossus Craig Halkett, lack of hold-up play
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Player of the match
The best attacker was Barrie McKay. Even as Hearts’ performances have dipped in recent weeks he’s stayed a consistent threat and the Tynecastle side’s main source of creativity. He excellently set up Gary Mackay-Steven for a terrific late chance, only to see the substitute trip up under his own feet, before his own shot narrowly flashed beyond the far post.
The best defender, on the other hand, was Craig Halkett. You could perhaps say he could’ve done more to stop the Celtic goal, but he’s got the justifiable excuse that Kyogo was offside and he was keeping his distance to ensure his opponent remained so, only for the officials to miss it. Otherwise he made so many crucial interventions inside the Hearts penalty box, putting his body on the line constantly.
Sometimes when conceding a wrongful goal to one half of the Old Firm, you can console yourself with the likelihood it wouldn’t have mattered much to the final outcome. This wasn’t one of those games. Celtic certainly had opportunities, but this wasn’t all-out domination, even in the first half where Hearts could get nothing started in attack. Had Kyogo’s goal not counted, would Hearts have conceded anyway? Possibly, but it’s certainly doubtful.
Bobby Madden can’t be blamed for his assistant referee failing to spot an offside. He can, however, be blamed for the baffling decision to halt a promising attack from the away side because Jota felt his hamstring going. It’s not a head knock so there is little justification for stopping play. What made it all the more maddening (pun, intended) was him then letting Celtic have the ball back. Sorry, what?
Benefit of hindsight
Boyce, having recently recovered from injury, might not have been fit enough to start, especially with a more winnable game away to Livingston at the weekend, but there’s little doubt Hearts played much better when he came off the bench and there was someone in attack to hold up play and bring others into it. The lack of Armand Gnanduillet in this game, or much at all recently, suggests he’s not fully trusted by Robbie Neilson. Hearts need another natural striker in January.