VLADIMIR ROMANOV watched from the stands as Paulo Sergio’s men emerged victorious against a Celtic side incapable of retaining their discipline.
Tynecastle’s floodlights were switched on long before 1pm, but the watching Romanov would have had few worries about the increased electricity tariff as Hearts tapped into their own energy store in front of the club owner.
It was later revealed that Romanov had given a pep talk to the players prior to kick-off.
Hearts threatened first when a clever Jamie Hamill free-kick found the unmarked Ryan Stevenson in the box. His diving header was tipped wide by Fraser Forster, but the goalkeeper had to be helped out by his right hand post just two minutes later. Marius Zaliukas’ drive, from the edge of the box after a poor headed clearance from Daniel Majstorovic, was inches away from counting for the home team, whose ploy of positioning Eggert Jonsson in front of the back four appeared sound.
He helped shield the defence and it took Celtic 20 minutes to construct a first clear opening.
A slip from Danny Grainger provided James Forrest with the opportunity to make an advance down the right and his cross fell perfectly for Mohamed Bangura, whose header was weak. Nevertheless, Jamie MacDonald still had to move smartly to deflect the ball wide.
Thereafter game entered a physical phase, Ki picking up a yellow card for a trip on Rudi Skacel and then Ian Black picking up a perhaps inevitable booking for a foul on Kris Commons.
Chances were still being created, however. Perhaps the most thrilling episode of the first half came after a Victor Wanyama foul on Black – this pair duelled right up until the Hearts player limped off in the dying minutes – had Hamill setting his sights for a shot on goal. His free-kick effort looked to be in all the way until Forster leapt to his right to make a fine save.
Somehow the half had finished goal-less, but such was the open nature and intensity few had any doubt that the deadlock would be broken. Just as inevitable seemed the red card which was duly meted out to Commons.
Hearts, though, had already edged ahead so it could not be claimed that Celtic only listed after the loss of a man. They were already struggling following Skacel’s piece of opportunism as he pounced on Templeton’s attempt to bring down Hamill’s cross from the right. Skacel didn’t stand on ceremony and instead lashed the loose ball past Forster from 18 yards.
Neil Lennon’s reaction was to send on Anthony Stokes for Bangura, but this tactical switch was not given the chance to prosper. Commons lunged at Mrowiec after losing the ball in the middle of the park and was immediately shown the red card. The home side then seized the daylight which Edinburgh had been deprived on a murky afternoon when Stevenson cooly slotted home after good work from Templeton.
The winger harried Mark Wilson, who had replaced the injured Adam Matthews, as the pair chased the ball into the corner of the box. His back-heel into Stevenson’s path was exquisite. The striker still had his own job of work to complete, and rounded Forster before applying a delirious finish into the net.
Hearts: McDonald, Hamill, Grainger, Webster, Jonsson, Zaliukas, Black (Smith 88), Mrowiec, Stevenson, Skacel (Obua 77), Templeton (Novikovas 84).