Hibs 1, Hearts 0: Simon Murray's early goal settles derby
Hibs made it eight Edinburgh derbies in succession undefeated and leapfrogged Hearts to move up to fifth place in the Premiership after an early goal from Simon Murray was enough to sink their city rivals.
The sublime third-minute strike from the former Dundee United striker, who started in attack in the absence of the injured Anthony Stokes, also ensured a fourth consecutive Easter Road success over the Tynecastle side.
Hearts had sporadic periods of pressure in the second half, but Hibs looked the stronger side throughout and were deserving of their victory.
Neil Lennon opted to change his goalkeeper, with Ofir Marciano replacing Ross Laidlaw following his slack display in Saturday’s Betfred Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic. In addition to Murray taking Stokes’ place in attack, Martin Boyle and Steven Whittaker replaced Vykintas Slivka and David Gray.
Hearts made three changes to the side that started in Saturday’s Premiership win over St Johnstone, as Connor Randall, Rafal Grzelak and teenager Euan Henderson – making his first start after a couple of impressive substitute outings – replaced Prince Buaben, David Milinkovic and Esmael Goncalves. In total, six players in the two starting line-ups also started the previous derby at Easter Road eight months earlier: Marciano, Lewis Stevenson, Marvin Bartley, John McGinn and Boyle of Hibs, and Jamie Walker of Hearts.
The visitors were first to threaten, when Walker pinged a speculative strike high over the bar in the second minute. But Hibs went ahead a minute later when Murray, without a goal since scoring in the win over Rangers at Ibrox more than two months ago, collected possession wide on the left, nutmegged John Souttar and lashed a clinical, angled strike high beyond Jon McLaughlin from 15 yards out.
Hearts tried to respond in the 16th minute when Walker won a free-kick on the angle of the box after being fouled by Paul Hanlon, but Grzelak’s free-kick was blocked by the defensive wall.
The hosts threatened a second in the 29th minute when Dylan McGeouch clipped a corner into the path of the unmarked Lewis Stevenson on the edge of the box, but the left-back saw his powerful strike headed over by Souttar. From the resulting corner, taken by Brandon Barker, Efe Ambrose headed over the bar.
At the other end, Kyle Lafferty latched on to a long ball over the top from Michael Smith but the striker’s attempted lob from the angle of the box dropped just over the bar in the 34th minute. Hearts went close again a minute later when Walker’s firm low shot from just inside the box was blocked by Marciano after Lafferty had knocked Brandon’s cross into his path.
Hibs went desperately close to doubling their lead two minutes before the break when Boyle was put clean through by McGeouch but was denied by McLaughlin, before Steven Whittaker curled the rebound over from the edge of the box after the goal had opened up for him.
Hearts made a change at the start of the second half, with 16-year-old Harry Cochrane replacing Grzelak in central midfield.
Hibs started the second half on the front foot and Christophe Berra made a vital tackle at the back post to stop Murray knocking in a low ball across the penalty area from McGinn in the 49th minute. Randall then had to make goal-saving block to stop Whittaker forcing in a Barker corner from ten yards out.
Hearts made their second change of the night in the 57th minute when Goncalves replaced Brandon, who was having a difficult evening at left-back. Smith moved across to right-back, with Randall dropping back from midfield to right-back and Goncalves moving to the left flank. With the Tynecastle side coming more into the game, Cole Stockton was sent on in place of teenager Henderson in the 72nd minute. The former Tranmere Rovers striker almost made a swift impact but his close-range volley at the back post flashed agonisingly across the face of goal.
Just as Hearts looked to be coming on strong, Hibs almost scored a breakaway second goal in the 80th minute but McLaughlin got down to tip behind a low, net-bound strike from McGinn. The Easter Road side took the sting out of the game thereafter and were able to enjoy the now familiar post-derby ritual of embarking on a lap of honour to the strains of Sunshine on Leith.
Hibs: Marciano; Whittaker, Ambrose, Hanlon, Stevenson; McGeouch, Bartley; Boyle (Slivka 90), McGinn, Barker; Murray (Matulevicius 81). Subs not used: Laidlaw, Gray, Shaw, Murray, Porteous.
Hearts: McLaughlin; Smith, Souttar, Berra, Brandon (Goncalves 57); Grzelak (Cochrane 46), Randall; Walker, Callachan, Walker; Lafferty (Stockton 72). Subs not used: Hamilton, Milinkovic, Nowak, Moore.
Ref: Andrew Dallas