Solid Hearts extend Hibs Scottish Cup nightmare
Our neighbours will have to wait another year to end their Homecoming Scottish Cup jinx, after a dominant performance from Hearts was enough to see them off. Christian Nade's strike in the first half and Gary Glen's injury time finish following a superb through ball from Karipidis were the difference, against the most toothless Hibs performance at Easter Road this writer can remember for a long time. Hibernian will point to the red card for Steven Fletcher on the half hour mark as a turning point, but in truth they had only fashioned one clear-cut chance before then, as Hearts took control of proceedings.
It was a full away stand that greeted the players as they made their way onto the pitch and a relatively full Easter Road as well, with the possible exception of the Famous Five Stand. Regardless of that, the noise was deafening.
The first meaningful passage of play came after eight minutes, when Obua interchanged well with Nade and slipped a good first time ball into the area for Cesnauskis. Our tricky Lithuanian winger was at an awkward angle, so his cross-cum-shot sailed harmlessly away from goal. Just after, a great high pass from Jonsson enabled Obua to tee up Driver's run. Ma-Kalamby gathered the resulting right-foot effort.
Janos Balogh was the hero at Easter Road in October when he dived at Riordan's feet to prevent a certain goal and he repeated the feat again today. Bamba's clever through ball found Fletcher in what looked an offside position, and for a moment it seemed as if Hibs would have the lead. But for the Hungarian's superbly-timed dive at Fletcher's feet, they would have.
Without tempting any fate, or at least trying not to, as we hit the twenty minute mark it had to be said it was the best start we'd made to a game at Easter Road for a fair wee while. There had been the odd hairy moment such as when Hearts somehow managed to go from a threatening situation with Nade in the Hibs box to a defending a counter-attack with only two defenders, but it was overall a pleasing opening.
Easter Road erupted on the half hour mark, in fury as opposed to anger, when Steven Fletcher was shown a straight red card for a horror tackle on Christophe Berra. It was an unexpected decision, but we've seen too many of them given against Hearts in recent times to have any overt sympathy. Fletcher's strike partners Riordan and Johnasson were suitably incensed and both earned talking to's from referee Mr Richmond in the next few minutes.
We were looking for Hearts to use their advantage and they duly did after 37 minutes. Wallace's cross was met by a tangle between Obua and Rob Jones, and the Ugandan managed to direct his header towards Driver. He hooked the ball across goal and took out the keeper, leaving Nade to turn the ball into an empty net, albeit under pressure from the Hibs defence. Just over a quarter of Easter Road went crazy, and it was great to watch!
There was a need for calm however, because a single goal lead in a derby will always be precarious. And as for a one-man advantage...well, we all remember the derby from 2003 when Grant Brebner's early red card did not stop Garry O'Connor slamming a last-minute winner.
The Hibs keeper was replaced at half time by debutant Szamotulski, once linked with a move to Tynecastle. The former Dundee United man almost had an absolute nightmare of a first touch, when Van Zanten's sloppy pass back almost wrong-footed him and ended up as an own-goal. Hearts had a confident opening fifteen minutes of the half, using their one man advantage well, without ever really carving Hibs open.
The petty and immature Riordan was booked for a gesture to the Hearts fans as he made way for Nish on 65 minutes, Johansson was replaced by the pacy O'Brien. It appeared to have an immediate impact, as a delivered free-kick from Stevenson enabled Nish to cause havoc in the box, before a desperate Zaliukas cleared the danger.
From the reassurance, we went to uncertainty, as Hibs, buoyed on by the crowd, upped the tempo. Rankin had a long range 'squiggler' dealt with comfortably by Balogh and Nade's header was well held by Szamotulski. Paatalainen earned a talking to from referee Mr Richmond, after complaining somewhat robustly about something.
Hearts fans screamed for a penalty after Rob Jones rather nonchalantly waved his arm and appeared to catch a free-kick that was going out of play. It was accidental however, and Mr Richmond let him off the hook. There were now ten minutes to go, as David Obua, who had put in one of his best shifts to date, was withdrawn for Gary Glen.
Calamitous defending from Hogg fed Driver in the penalty box, and after a duck and a dive his shot was well saved by Szamotulski. Rob Jones by now was playing up front for the home side. Driver then played some magnificent stuff to dance his way to the by-line but his cross across goal missed everyone. We were now into five minutes of added-on time.
But they were rendered irrelevant after 91 minutes, when a magnificent, magnificent through ball from Karipidis set up Glen to run through the middle. His first touch was sublime, taking out Szamotulski and Hogg and, in a matter similar to Edgaras Jankauskas's goal at Hampden nearly three years ago, he finished with precision and slid on his knees towards the delighted swarm of Hearts fans. Game over, and what a way to end it all.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay (Szamotulski, 46); Van Zanten, Hogg, Jones, Murray; Johansson (O'Brien, 65), Bamba, Rankin, Stevenson; Fletcher, Riordan (Nish, 65). Booked: Stevenson, Rankin, Riordan. Sent off: Fletcher. Subs not used: Yantorno, Chisholm
Hearts: Balogh; Jonsson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace; Cesnauskis, Karipidis, Palazuelos, Driver; Obua (Glen, 80); Nade (Stewart, 90). Booked: Berra, Zaliukas. Subs not used: Kello, Thomson, Templeton.
Referee: Craig Thomson
Top man: Christos Karipidis
Join Lawrence Broadie, Mark Donaldson and Gary Mackay for LIVE coverage of today's derby from 12noon on Hearts.TV.