When Hearts and Hibs beat Celtic and Rangers on the same night
This time roughly ten years ago Hearts and Hibs were experiencing rather different starts to the season.
The Easter Road side had won just two of their opening 11 matches, while Hearts had won five and drawn two of their first round of fixtures.
Both teams had lost twice to the Old Firm so when Hibs travelled to Ibrox and Hearts hosted Celtic in the second cycle of fixtures, it is unlikely that many fans of either side would have predicted midweek victories.
Rangers v Hibs
Hibs had already parted company with manager John Hughes by early October and his replacement Colin Calderwood had begun his tenure with three straight defeats at the hands of Aberden, Dundee United, and Hearts.
Coming up against a Rangers side unbeaten on home soil since March 2009 didn’t bode well for the Hibees’ chances. On top of that, the mercurial Derek Riordan was suspended after being sent off in the Edinburgh derby. Calderwood made four changes to his team with Francis Dickoh, Ian Murray, David Wotherspoon, and Valdas Trakys replacing Paul Hanlon, Lewis Stevenson, Danny Galbraith and Riordan, who had all started in the 2-0 home defeat by Hearts at the weekend.
Predictably the hosts enjoyed the bulk of the early action but with the game just six minutes old, midfielder Liam Miller tore up the script as he evaded a challenge from Lee McCulloch and chanced his luck with a swerving shot that deceived Allan McGregor and handed Hibs the lead.
Miller then came close to turning provider as Wotherspoon met his cross moments later but this time McGregor made the block. Kyle Lafferty came close to equalising after Miller’s opener and the Northern Irishman went close again from a Majid Bougherra cross but former Gers youngster Mark Brown made the save and preserved Hibs’ lead.
Barely 15 minutes had passed since Miller’s opener when he played in midfield colleague John Rankin, who doubled the visitors’ advantage with a sweet strike from the edge of the penalty area.
Stirred into action by going two down inside 20 minutes, Rangers sought an immediate response and Trakys hacked a David Weir header off the goal-line as Calderwood’s side held on to their lead.
Brown then saved well from Bougherra and there was further misery for the hosts with midfielder Maurice Edu and defender Sasa Papac sustaining injuries before the break and being replaced by Vladimir Weiss and Kirk Broadfoot respectively.
Kenny Miller then came close to reducing the deficit but found Brown in inspired form and the former Ibrox kid continued to frustrate his old club in the second half, saving from McCulloch before Trakys cleared another net-bound effort from Weir off the line moments before Rankin forced McGregor into a smart save.
Rangers continued to pour forwards but when Sol Bamba nodded Rankin’s corner ball down for defensive colleague Dickoh to lash home from close range with 15 minutes to play the game was all but over and the Capital club held firm late on to record an unlikely victory, and perhaps even unlikelier clean sheet.
Hearts v Celtic
In Gorgie, Hearts were seeking just their second home win of the season after a 3-0 triumph over St Mirren in October courtesy of a Rudi Skacel hat-trick. Few would have picked Celtic as ideal opposition, especially as Neil Lennon’s side had scored 12 goals without reply in their previous two matches including a 9-0 drubbing of Aberdeen four days prior. Indeed, the Hoops had lost just once all season – to Old Firm rivals Rangers – and conceded just five goals.
Strikers Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes had netted a hat-trick apiece against the Dons and lined up to face Hearts in the Capital but it was the home side who looked the hungrier of the two teams in the first half. Celtic had started fairly brightly but the first real sign of danger from either side was Ismael Bouzid’s header from a corner 12 minutes in that sparked a stramash in the visitors’ penalty area before the ball was cleared.
Stephen Elliot then hit the bar after getting his head to David Templeton’s cross-cum-shot but it was midfielder Ian Black who gave Hearts a deserved lead on 29 minutes, his 30-yard effort from a short free-kick flying past Fraser Forster with the aid of a Daniel Majstorovic deflection.
Celtic fought back but Hooper was booked for diving when through on goal one-on-one and the same player passed up a glorious chance to equalise just before the break with Marian Kello saving his shot from eight yards. Skacel then stung Forster’s palms as Hearts sought a second before half-time.
The second half exploded into life after a low-key start when Joe Ledley was shown a straight red card for an ugly lunge on Black. Hearts capitalised on the uncertainty amongst the ten men of Celtic to score a second after Shaun Maloney gave up possession in midfield. Skacel intercepted and set off down the left, and his slide-rule pass across the box was expertly finished by Templeton under Forster.
Celtic then had a penalty claim turned down when Ryan Stevenson appeared to handle in the box; an incandescent Lennon was sent to the stands by referee Craig Thomson for his protests and that was effectively it for the Bhoys, who Hearts had limited to just two shots on target mere days after their nine-goal mauling of Aberdeen.