Celtic 1 Hearts 1

Skacel strike keeps Celtic at bay and Hearts' dream alive

Rudi Skacel maintained the leaders' unbeaten record, cancelling out Craig Beattie's opener in a pulsating encounter between the top two. Added to their win over over Rangers last month, this result fuels Hearts' dreams of a first title success in 40 years.

This much-anticipated contest did not disappoint its 61,000 audience. The first half was fren-etic, laced with good football and incessant industry. Hearts had no intention of shutting up shop. Paul Hartley came close after just two minutes when he seized on a knockdown from Edgaras Jankauskas and thrashed a 25-yard shot which Artur Boruc pushed over the bar. Jankauskas was then denied by the vigilant Stephen McManus as he tried to finish off Hartley's cross.

However, it was Celtic who struck first, as Beattie scored a fine goal after 13 minutes. Shunsuke Nakamura opened up Hearts with a diagonal cross that allowed Neil Lennon to creep in unnoticed and plant a header across the face of goal which eventually broke to Beattie. The young striker feinted to create space and then drilled a left-shot shot beyond the goalkeeper, Steve Banks.

Bobo Baldé almost doubled that lead within a couple of minutes as he met Alan Thompson's corner and thumped a header off the post. But Hearts restored parity with their next attack.

A long ball from Jankauskas was chased by Skacel, seizing on an error by Paul Telfer, who tried to usher the ball back to Boruc. Skacel stuck a foot, the ball rebounded off the goalkeeper and Hearts' top scorer thrashed in the rebound.

Jankauskas then squandered another chance before Celtic's incessant pressure saw Banks make a remarkable save from Thompson's venomous shot.


The second half saw both goalkeepers produce fine saves to protect the scoreline, as Banks pushed a Telfer drive past the post and then Boruc came out to block Skacel's attempt after Jankauskas threaded a pass in behind the Celtic defence.

Gordon Strachan brought on Shaun Maloney after 65 minutes to add some zest to his side, and the little striker quickly earned a foul that allowed him to curl a sublime free-kick towards the top corner of the goal, matched by an acrobatic leap from Banks to paw the ball wide.

John Hartson came off the bench but lacked his usual accuracy. Hartson squandered a fine chance from Nakamura's thrust, steering his shot wide. Six minutes from time, Hartson then planted a header wide as Maloney's corner found him.