First Team

Outstanding

17th December 2017

Craig thrilled with his rampant Hearts side as they put four past Celtic without reply.

In the wake of a superb 4-0 win over Celtic, Craig Levein admitted to experiencing one of the best moments in his long footballing career, on a day where everything went right and the league champions were sent packing.

First-half strikes from Harry Cochrane and Kyle Lafferty set the tone, before a David Milinkovic double put the icing on a magnificent display when Celtic’s 69-game unbeaten run came to a crashing halt in Gorgie.

Inspired by Belgian champions Anderlecht in a composed display a few weeks ago, the Jambos went hunting in packs and never gave the Bhoys a moment’s piece, with a strong and committed defensive display from a make-shift back four keeping them at bay.

“It’s up there with the best moments I’ve experienced,” said Craig. “All credit to Celtic to even be in that position to begin with, trying to get to seventy wins, it takes a huge a level of commitment and effort to get there. That said, for us to be the team to defeat them is outstanding.

“We went toe-to-toe with them, and came out on top. We based our game on Anderlecht [who defeated Celtic at Parkhead on December 5th] in terms of high press, and being brave at the back. We had to go man for man, and that’s difficult to do.

“If you get caught, they can cut you open,” he continued. “The defenders and their recovery runs when the high press didn’t work, that was where we made the difference. We also had Michael Smith doing something he wasn’t used to [playing at centre-half] but he was fantastic.

“He and the rest of the defence dealt with a very talented frontline superbly, but it was a team effort ultimately. Today wasn’t a day where we could have 9 or 10 players and one not on their game, it had to be collective, and they got their rewards for their hard work today.”

Praising young Harry Cochrane, who became the Jambos’ youngest ever league goalscorer with his opener today, Craig was effusive in his admiration of the youthful playmaker, stating that he was a pleasure to work with. Facing his biggest challenge yet against Celtic and Scotland captain Scott Brown, the youngster shone and was rewarded with a bottle of champagne that he wouldn’t be able to drink until 2019.

“We don’t want to start putting people on a pedestal,” he explained. “Having said that, Harry is a pleasure to work with. He’s a well-mannered, well brought up boy who just loves playing football. It’s all new to him, but he’s going around like the Cheshire Cat.

“He’s really got something, and it’s not easy to play well in a match like today. Scott Brown is a tremendous player, and Harry could learn a lot from him, but ultimately today it was our day and Harry was on the winning side.”

Lastly, the manager attempted to keep everyone’s feet on the ground as he made the point of saying this kind of performance would not be possible consistently, yet, but that the team must aspire to give their supporters more moments like today.

“This was a one-off, for the moment,” he admitted. “We want to get to a level where we can do this consistently. We had five or six starting players missing today. We scored at the right moments today, when it looked like Celtic had some pressure.

“At points, it seemed like the batteries might be running low but then we found that energy again, and got it back up. The way the players worked, and ran for for each other today was vital, and that was shown in the supporters who were absolutely magnificent today.”