Hibee History: De la Cruz in control for derby win

Ulises de la Cruz (No.2) is congratulated after opening the scoring after just 36 seconds at Easter Road
Ulises de la Cruz (No.2) is congratulated after opening the scoring after just 36 seconds at Easter Road
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Hibs contained a late Hearts comeback to hang on for victory in an exciting Edinburgh derby at Easter Road.

They looked to be cruising with a two-goal lead thanks to a brace of first half goals by Ulises De La Cruz.

But when Stephen Simmons pulled a goal back against the run of play in the second half the Easter Road men seemed less confident and assured.

There were some anxious moments in the Hibs box, but in the end the home side held on for a hard-fought three points.

Hibs got off to a dream start when they took the lead after only 36 seconds. From the right-hand side Alen Orman slipped the ball to De La Cruz at the edge of the Hearts box. There appeared to be little imminent danger but the Ecuadorian wing-back swivelled and curled a tremendous left foot shot high into the net.

Hearts looked shell-shocked as the Hibees men took control of the game, driving at the visitors box in hope of a second goal.

A Franck Sauzee free-kick from the edge of the box was deflected past goal for a corner and then Ulrik Laursen caused trouble with a cross from the left which eventually was put past the post for a goal kick by Hibs’ John O’Neil.

The visitors offered little in return and debutant striker Ricardo Fuller looked redundant up front alongside Stephane Adam. In the 18th minute De La Cruz – nicknamed “The Tank” could have scored his second goal from a counter attack but hesitated before shooting into the side-netting.

Gradually Hearts seemed less desperate and nervous and began to gain their share of possession without threatening Nick Colgan in the Hibs goal. The home side remained potent going forward and in the 21st minute Francisco Luna’s shot from 25 yards went narrowly past Antti Niemi’s right-hand post.

But two minutes later Hibs did double their lead and it was De La Cruz who grabbed his second of the afternoon with the Gorgie defence all over the place. The ever dangerous Luna raced to the byeline, turned defender Alan Maybury and his cut-back was deflected straight on to the toe of the Ecuadorian who tapped the ball in from a yard out.

Hearts were once again on the back foot and could not seem to do anything right, summed up in the 31st minute when Juanjo’s speculative shot from 30 yards went high over the crossbar. Moments later Fuller, booked earlier for a clumsy foul on Orman, had a half chance for the visitors when he was sent clear down the left, but the Jamaican’s poor angled drive from inside the box shot across the six-yard box and away to safety.

Hibs continued to look dangerous and Tam McManus, on as a 40th-minute substitute for Craig Brewster, made an immediate impact and powered a shot from 14 yards which flew just outside 
Niemi’s left post.

As the fog descended on the stadium at the start of the second half, Hibs remained comfortably in control. They were tight in defence, enjoying the bulk of possession and dangerous on the counter attack.

Hearts boss Craig Levein made two early changes in the second half in order to get his team back into the game, Stevie Fulton coming on for Andrew Webster and Kevin McKenna replacing Stephane Adam.

On the hour mark Hibs could have made it three when De La Cruz burst into the box and cut the ball back for the onrushing McManus.

But the substitute missed his kick completely from six yards and when the ball fell to Ian Murray, he compounded the mistake by blasting the ball over the bar.

However, Hearts pulled a goal back out of the blue on 64 minutes when Juanjo’s square pass across the box fell kindly to Stephen Simmons, who slotted into the corner of the net from 12 yards out.

The goal boosted the visitors, who scented they could salvage at least a point and the game came to life once again.

Hibs seemed less confident now and the match became more even with the play swinging from end to end. But, despite the visitors’ late pressure, Hibs held on for a hard-fought victory.

Hibs: Colgan, Fenwick, Sauzee, Laursen, Orman, De la Cruz, Brebner, O’Neil, Murray, Brewster (McManus 40), Luna (Zitelli 86). Subs Not Used: Caig, Townsley, Smart

Hearts: Niemi, Maybury, Pressley, Webster (Fulton 52), Mahe, Juanjo, Severin, Simmons, Flogel, Adam (McKenna 57), Fuller (Wales 78). Subs Not Used: McKenzie, Sloan

Ref: M McCurry (Scotland)

Att: 13,774