Heart of Midlothian 1 Celtic 1

Last updated : 11 April 2009 By Footymad Previewer
Hearts came from behind to salvage a thoroughly merited 1-1 draw against Celtic in a pulsating encounter at Tynecastle.

The champions made an explosive start, the like of which Hoops manager Gordon Strachan can only have dreamed.

With barely 30 seconds played, the Hearts defence made heavy work of clearing an Aiden McGeady cross and Andreas Hinkel retrieved possession to deliver a precise delivery for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.

The in-form Dutchman made no mistake with a deft 12-yard volley to give Celtic a stunning early breakthrough. Hearts keeper Janos Balogh should have done better though.

To their immense credit, Hearts quickly mounted a spirited response and should have equalised in the eighth minute when Marius Zaliukas headed over from close range after good work by Ruben Palazuelos.

Moments later, Celtic skipper Stephen McManus was shown a yellow card for a cynical trip on Hearts' midfield maestro Bruno Aguiar as the Celts' struggled to contain their resilient hosts.

Celtic appeared to have weathered the storm and Vennegoor of Hesselink and fellow countryman Glenn Loovens both went close to doubling the visitors' lead.

However, Hearts got the leveller their dogged determination deserved in the 32nd minute and it was a goal of breathtaking technique and accuracy.

Vennegoor of Hesselink conceded a needless free-kick 25 yards from goal and Aguiar stepped up to curve a glorious shot beyond the helpless Artur Boruc, sending the Gorgie faithful into delirium.

Balogh then went some way to redeeming himself when he bravely denied the onrushing Willo Flood to preserve parity before the interval.

The half-time break gave both sets of players a sorely needed breather after a relentless opening period.

Shortly after the interval, Hearts continued to pose Celtic problems and the marauding Lithuanian Zaliukas was only denied by a fine finger-tip Boruc save after a mazy run and shot from the temperamental defender.

Celtic toiled to make any notable chances in the early stages of the second half as the introduction of midfield duo Marc Crosas and Shunsuke Nakamura failed to make the desired impact for Strachan's men.

Hearts were dominating possession without really troubling Boruc which was perhaps due to a lack of personnel up front, although lone striker Calum Elliot was deservedly given a standing ovation when substituted in the 75th minute following another rejuvenated performance.

As expected Celtic did eventually begin to embark on an assault for a winning goal but, despite a handful of goalmouth melees, the hosts stood firm.

Nakamura almost stole the points three minutes from time but Zaliukas produced a heroic diving block to deny the Japanese star as the match ended in a draw, a result which will be of more use to Hearts than it will Celtic as the champions face another mesmerising climax to the campaign.