IN A breathless, ferociously competitive Edinburgh derby laced with the usual helping of controversy as Dean Shiels was sent off for barging into Craig Gordon after converting a penalty, Hearts exploited Hibs’ numerical handicap by edging a five-goal thriller with a terrific goal from Saulius Mikoliunas.
Hibs came bustling out of the traps and created a clear cut opening for Abdessalam Benjelloun in the first minute. Ten yards from goal with only Gordon to beat, the striker blazed a shot wide of the target.
Almost immediately, Hearts responded with a set-piece thrust reminiscent of their best football under George Burley. Christophe Berra’s free-kick was shrewdly flicked on by Edgaras Jankauskas and Roman Bednar slipped the offside trap before cutting the ball back from the bye-line. Timing his run to perfection into the six-yard box, Hartley had the simple task of side-footing the ball past Malkowski. It was his eighth goal in eight games against Hibs for the Tynecastle side.
In a match played at a frantic pace, Hibs gave no quarter in midfield where both Hartley and Michael Stewart were booked after an early clash. When Stewart felled Hartley with another mistimed challenge later in the half, the former Hearts man was fortunate to stay on the pitch.
Aware, no doubt, that Malkowski doesn’t have the safest pair of hands in derby history, Jankauskas was entitled to stalk the Hibs goalkeeper when Hartley’s 48th-minute free-kick was curled towards the far post.
Even the big Lithuanian, however, must have been astonished by the fumble which presented him with the simplest chance to score his first goal of the season from a couple of yards.
Hibs responded in a timely manner by forcing a corner thanks to surging run from Whittaker. Shiels’ 54th-minute corner was struck deep into the heart of the box where Killen’s towering header escaped the outstretched arms of Gordon.
Now enthused about salvaging some reward from what had looked a lost cause, Hibs set up the equaliser when Whittaker’s diagonal pass found Shiels on the left of the box.
Nerijus Barasa brushed the forward, who went down quickly, and conceded a soft 60th-minute penalty. Shiels made an expert job of the spot-kick with a well-placed shot and then suffered a bizarre rush of blood to the head.
Running to pick up the ball from the back of the net, Shiels careered into Gordon and sent the Hearts goalkeeper crashing to the ground. Was it deliberate? After consulting with the assistant referee, Mike McCurry decided the challenge was reckless enough to merit a red card and instant dismissal.
Shiels’ angry reaction suggested he felt hard done by and the goalkeeper had gone down too readily.
With Hibs reduced to ten men, the outcome of a gripping match turned again in the 69th minute when Andrius Velicka, on as a replacement for Jankauskas, swept across an inviting ball from the left flank which missed everyone until Mikoliunas arrived late in the box and thumped the ball into the roof of the net from 16 yards.
Hearts: Gordon, Barasa, Goncalves, Zaliukas, Brellier, Berra, Mikoliunas, Hartley, Jankauskas, Bednar, McCann.
Hibs: Malkowski, Whittaker, Murphy, Martis, Buezelin, Jones, Brown, Stewart, Killen, Benjelloun, Shiels.