Forster ensures Hearts are broke on the double
Celtic 1 Hearts 0
Published 12/12/2011 | 05:00
They say you should never eat oysters in a month that doesn't contain a pay cheque. Nor should you pitch up at Celtic Park under similar circumstances, with players mutinous with discontent and still wondering when their salaries will arrive.
Hearts earned credit for their fighting spirit in this match, but the likeliest scenario, that they would have their impecunious noses rubbed firmly in the dirt, was the one that duly came to pass. With a smattering of salty ignominy added to their wounds as well. With just one minute left, Hearts won a penalty when Victor Wanyama, who had scored an elegant goal for Celtic 17 minutes earlier, was adjudged to have handled in the box.
The award was highly dubious and a draw would certainly have flattered a Hearts side who had created almost no real scoring opportunities up to that point, but it would still be hard to argue that their players do not deserve a little bit of luck right now.
Unfortunately for them, Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster was in no mood to dish any out. After a lengthy argument with Georgios Samaras over the placing of the ball on the spot, Eggert Jonsson struck what seemed like the perfect penalty, low and hard towards the right-hand corner, but Forster read the Icelander's shot perfectly, dived to his left and turned the ball round the post.
The save brought an almighty roar from the Celtic support and Forster was engulfed by his team-mates. For Hearts, however, mired in financial uncertainty and still waiting for their wages to be paid, it was a cruel, cruel finish, and their fractiousness over the final few minutes was almost understandable. At the end, defender Jamie Hamill appeared to become embroiled in a skirmish with a couple of opposition players, and there was a suspicion one or two in the Celtic team, Scott Brown most prominent, had been guilty of some winding-up tactics.
And yet the overall impression was that Celtic are a team in splendid shape right now. They will go into the Europa League game against Udinese on Thursday in good heart, on a run of six straight wins in the Premier League, and with their top players firing nicely.
Brown made an impressive return, adding urgency and devil in the centre of the midfield when he came on as a second-half substitute, and there were admirable contributions from Jamie Forrest on the right wing, and Wanyama, who moved from the midfield to the defence.
"He's (Wanyama) progressed in physical presence and his technical ability on the ball is excellent. He reads the game well and he has been a tremendous signing," said Neil Lennon.
He also knows how to score a slick goal. Celtic had dominated the game for the first 70 minutes but they had been, in Lennon's words, "impotent" in the final third. However, when Wanyama collected the ball five yards outside the Hearts' penalty box, he picked his spot in the top right-hand corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)