Hearts full-back Austin McCann’s wonder goal deep into stoppage time to defeat Celtic was one of the most memorable goals seen at Tynecastle.
The victory over the champions cemented Hearts’ position in third spot in the league table and was the catalyst for Craig Levein’s men to go on and clinch a coveted UEFA Cup spot.
The Jambos had been on a roll, turning Tynecastle into something of a fortress in the latter part of the season with the Gorgie side going eight games undefeated on their own patch.
Within a minute, a thumping challenge from skipper Steven Pressley had landed Alan Thompson on the touchline. The message was simple – Hearts weren’t going to be bullied by the Glasgow side.
However, the Jambos fell behind against the run of play, to a characteristically clinical piece of strike play by Henrik Larsson.
The Swede’s second half opener came after a Rab Douglas goal-kick was head-flicked by John Hartson into the path of Didier Agathe, who motored past McCann before cutting the ball back for Larsson to dink it over Tepi Moilanen and into the roof of the net.
The Hoops goal came almost 15 minutes after half-time and was a real sucker-punch as the home side had started far stronger in the second half. Phil Stamp should have scored when put through by Andy Webster but was denied by the legs of Douglas before the Scotland keeper beat away an Alan Maybury drive from the edge of the area.
Such incidents were typical of a game in which Hearts mustered more than double Celtic’s efforts on target.
The inclusion of Graham Weir in attack alongside Mark de Vries was the one surprise in the starting line-up. Manager Levein had obviously remembered the way the pair had linked at Celtic Park in a 4-2 defeat on Boxing Day the previous year. The little and large combination gave the Hoops defence plenty to think about with Weir – despite his lack of height and the fact he hadn’t started a first-team game since January – proving that he wasn’t about to be out-muscled by the strongest defence in the land. And when the front duo weren’t wreaking havoc in the opposing half they were setting a fine example by defending from the front.
The Jambos did, however, equalise in the 73rd minute. Scott Severin was the provider when he collected a Pressley free-kick at the back post and drove the ball across goal where Stamp slid in to knock the ball home, sending three sides of the ground into jubilation.
However, no one within the stadium could legislate for what was about to happen three minutes into stoppage time – not even the player who scored the wonder goal could quite believe what was happening in front of him.
With Celtic piling forward to try and eke out a winner themselves, the excellent Scott Severin collected a loose ball deep inside his own half and surged forward into the opposing half before picking out McCann on the overlap running down the left wing. The young full-back drew back his left foot and sent an unstoppable shot flying past Douglas into the far corner of the net from fully 25 yards out.
Hearts: Moilanen, Maybury, Pressley, Webster, McCann, MacFarlane, Stamp, Severin, Valois, Weir, De Vries