Hearts recorded their first victory in three games with a battling performance as they came from behind to beat Celtic and leave the Glasgow side trailing SPL leaders Rangers by four points.
The visitors had gone five games unbeaten prior to this result, with Tony Mowbray’s side having recorded a 3-3 draw away to Austrian outfit Rapid Vienna in the Europa League just days before.
Injuries denied the Jambos the services of experienced African midfielders Laryea Kingston and David Obua, their places taken by David Templeton and Ismael Bouzid.
But the young Hearts line-up signalled intentions by harassing Celtic from kick-off and, although the visitors looked the more dangerous, the home side produced the first shot on target.
Eggert Jonsson’s 25-yard drive was straight down the throat of goalkeeper Artur Boruc, but Georgios Samaras inspired Celtic’s response. The Greek striker did well to drift off his marker but could only head into the arms of Marian Kello from a tight angle and then force the goalkeeper to superbly palm wide a low drive.
Hearts perhaps ought to have taken the lead following a fine cross to the back post from Ruben Palazuelos. Templeton fluffed his shot and, although he was first to react, he should have got his header over the stranded Boruc on target, although there was a defender lurking on the goal-line.
Celtic’s relief turned to joy moments later and it was that man Samaras who gave them the lead.
Scott McDonald peeled away from marker Michael Stewart to head a Barry Robson corner off the far post and Samaras was first to react, firing low into the net from eight yards.
Celtic began to dominate, but a mistake from Glenn Loovens handed Hearts the chance to level. The Dutch defender failed with an attempt to chest clear and, as the ball fell for Jamie Mole, Gary Caldwell came in from behind to clip the striker’s heel. It was the slightest of touches but, with the defender being the last man and, having given the penalty, referee Willie Collum had no choice but to give the Scotland defender his marching orders and an early bath.
Stewart made amends for his role in Celtic’s goal by sending Boruc the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Mowbray responded immediately, replacing midfielder Marc Crosas with defender Stephen McManus and the ten men held out despite increasing pressure ahead of the half-time break.
Celtic came out with greater resolve and Aiden McGeady fired a drive against the post and Samaras curled an effort just wide. Hearts were struggling to make their extra man tell, but a superb run and curling cross from Templeton set up their second goal.
The teenager ran past Marc-Antoine Fortune, who had replaced McDonald, before finding Bouzid ghosting in at the back post to power his header home from ten yards.
Hearts: Kello, Thomson, Wallace, Bouzid, Stewart, Goncalves, Templeton, Jonsson, Mole, Robinson, Palazuelos