Hibernian 0-1 Heart of Midlothian
Saturday 29th December 2018, KO 17:30 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Easter Road
Hearts finished 2018 in style, beating Hibs 1-0 at Easter Road.
Olly Lee’s stunning first-half strike separated the two sides and sent the near 4,000-strong travelling support off home to begin New Year celebrations early.
Craig Levein made two changes to the side that swept aside Hamilton Accies in midweek. Sean Clare and Clevid Dikamona came into the starting line up, with Steven MacLean and Calumn Morrison moving to the bench.
It started in typically frantic fashion, with both sides eager to venture into the other’s half. With 13 minutes gone, chances occurred at either end.
First, Peter Haring intercepted a loose pass to feed Lee on the right, he crossed for Steven Naismith to nod into the path of Haring inside the box and the Austrian did well to keep it in play and touch back to Lee, who drilled into the middle but the ball ricocheted off of Vykintas Slivka and into Adam Bogdan’s arms.
Hibs then broke down the left, with Sean Mackie hooking a cross into the box for Oli Shaw but he could only head well over the target.
Efe Ambrose found himself at the edge of the Hearts box after 19 minutes, side-stepping Clare to curl a low left-foot shot on target but it was straight at Colin Doyle who gathered at his near post.
A well-worked corner saw Hearts go close on 23 minutes. Lee played an unexpected short ball to the unmarked Michael Smith inside the Hibs box, and he had all the time in the world to prod it towards goal but Bogdan was able to get a hand to the ball and steer it away from his goal.
The deadlock was broken in spectacular fashion in the 28th minute, and it was courtesy of Lee. Arnaud Djoum’s ball forward was knocked on by Clare into Lee’s path and with his back to goal, turned Paul Hanlon inside out before slamming an unstoppable shot into the top corner from around 25 yards.
Hibs rallied and went searching for the equaliser. Djoum gave away a free kick 30-yards out and Stevie Mallan’s set piece was met by Steven Whittaker, but Doyle threw himself to his right to make a solid save.
The Jambos didn’t rest on their laurels, however, and were seeking a second. Clare’s magnificent pirouette away fro two Hibs players saw him get the ball back from Smith, and he burst forward before pulling the trigger outside the box but the ball rose all the way and over the bar.
Ten seconds into the restart it was nearly 2-0. Clare’s flick on into the box was misjudged by Darren McGregor, allowing Naismith to nip and slam an effort on goal but Bogdan made a smart block at his near post.
Hibs came close to getting back on level terms shortly after. The ball broke to Oli Shaw 25-yards out and he hit an impressive half-volley that flew over the diving Doyle but hit the top of the bar on its way over.
Mackie was next to try his luck for Hibs, twisting and turning into a central position before blasting on target, stinging the palms of Doyle. Moments later he followed that up with another long-range effort but couldn’t find the target.
Hearts spurned a great chance to put the game to bed in the 70th minute. Naismith showed great tenacity to win the ball and send Clare clean through, but under pressure from McGregor and at an angle, his stab towards goal was saved by Bogdan.
The men in maroon had the woodwork to thank for maintain their lead in the 80th minute. Whittaker unleashed a powerful drive from distance that the outstretched Doyle did just enough to get a touch on to divert it onto one post then the ball ran across the line and touched the other post on its way out.
Doyle was then quick to react when a ball into the area appeared to be diverted to his own goal by Naismith, but the Irishman smothered it in front of his goal line.
An aerial bombardment of the Hearts goal followed in the final stages, but the magnificent Hearts defence stood firm to see out the game and secure all three points, keeping them within six points of the top of the league and opening up a seven-point gap on their city rivals.
Hibs: Bogdan, Whitakker, Hanlon, Horgan (Hyndman, 62'), Slivka (Gray, 73'), Mallan, Kamberi, McGregor, Ambrose, Shaw, Mackie. Subs: Dabrowski, Bartley, Gullan, Allan, Campbell.
Hearts: Doyle, Smith, Haring (Bozanic, 54'), Berra, Lee (Mulraney, 82'), Clare, Djoum, Naismith, Garuccio, Godinho, Dikamona. Subs: Zlamal, Mitchell, Hughes, MacLean, Morrison.
Referee: Kevin Clancy