Hearts 2 Celtic 1: Hearts delight as Bednar double downs champions

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The Independent Football

When Roman Bednar's second and decisive goal trickled over the line in the dying minutes yesterday, the Tynecastle crowd erupted with unconfined glee and the Hearts manager, Valdas Ivanauskas, bounced like Zebedee and punched the air like Tyson.

"For me, this was a very important performance," the Lithuanian chuckled in explanation afterwards.

One win this early in the season means nothing in the title race, of course, but this was a significant, and thoroughly deserved, victory. After a poor first half, last season's SPL runners-up comprehensively outplayed last season's champions to move ahead of them in the early-season table.

Bednar should have had a hat-trick but had a good goal chalked off for an offside that replays proved was non-existent. In between the two strikes that counted, Stilian Petrov scored for the visitors after the best single passing move of the match.

Still, first blood to Edinburgh, and it was almost literally so at the end of the opening period. The fracas in question happened not on the pitch but in the technical area. Gordon Strachan was unhappy that the referee had stopped play when Hearts' Julien Brellier was down injured and Celtic were attacking. Earlier, when Ibrahim Tall was felled, his own team-mates had played on. "Do you lot want to play or stop play when a man's down?" Strachan yelled at the opposition dugout.

This led to Ivanauskas' assistant, John McGlynn, storming into Celtic's technical area. Strachan's assistant, Garry Pendrey, shot forward to join in, and it seemed blows would be traded. Match officials and police separated the warring factions - and then Strachan and McGlynn were both sent to the stands. "A bit strange," Strachan said afterwards.

For much of his post-match press conference, he was in a testy mood, reacting spikily when asked whether Thursday's daft but lucrative friendly in Japan had had a negative effect on his players. In short, he said no. Actually, only four of those playing yesterday - including the below-par Shunsuke Nakamura and Kenny Miller - flew to the Far East.

The key difference was Hearts' up-and-at-'em attitude from the start of the second half. Bruno Aguiar, pivotal in midfield, set up several chances for Bednar before Michal Pospisil's defence-splitting pass was converted low and hard past Artur Boruc.

Bednar then had a goal ruled offside, before Celtic equalised with a swift counter-punch involving Nakamura, Miller, Aiden McGeady and a Petrov finish. Hearts stayed calm, and it would have been a travesty if they had not collected all three points. Ironically, they were ultimately gifted, not earned, when Neil Lennon's lobbed backpass was woefully misplaced, allowing Bednar to steal in, nick the ball from Boruc, and round him to score. Next up for Hearts is Wednesday's Champions' League qualifier against AEK Athens. Next up for Celtic - a friendly at Chelsea.

Goals: Bednar (49) 1-0; Petrov (64) 1-1; Bednar (87) 2-1.

Heart of Midlothian (4-1-3-2): Gordon; Tall (Neilson, 27), Pressley, Berra, Wallace; Brellier; Mikoliunas, Aguiar, McCann (Cesnauskis, 62); Bednar, Pospisil (Makela, 83). Substitutes not used: Banks (gk), Beslija, Elliot, Karipidis.

Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Caldwell, McManus, Wilson; Nakamura (Pearson, 71), Petrov, Jarosik, McGeady; Miller (Lennon, 66), Zurawski. Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Riordan, Pearson, Sno, Wallace, Odea.

Referee: K Clark (Scotland).

Booked: Hearts Brellier; Celtic Jarosik, Wilson.

Man of the match: Bednar.

Attendance: 16,822.