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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Saturday, 13 December 2008

Celtic 1-1 Hearts

By Martin Conaghan

Andrew Driver
Andrew Driver celebrates scoring the opener at Celtic Park

Celtic's lead at the top of the SPL table remains at four points following a tense draw with Hearts.

Andrew Driver opened the scoring for the visitors in the 23rd minute with a low drive from close range after good work by Laryea Kingston.

Celtic captain Stephen McManus headed in an equaliser with 11 minutes remaining after Georgios Samaras had nodded down a Shunsuke Nakamura cross.

Aiden McGeady came close in injury-time but his shot drifted wide of the mark.

Celtic finished strongly but it had taken Gordon Strachan's side more than an hour to wake from a collective slumber.

Following a scrappy opening, the first threat came from Hearts in the 18th minute when Driver broke free down the left but was stifled by Paul Hartley at the 18-yard line.

Hearts broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute when Kingston picked up a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and drove a low diagonal ball across the face of goal for Driver to strike low into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Moments later Christian Nade almost doubled the visitors' tally when Kingston slotted through a pass for the Frenchman to turn and strike, but Artur Boruc smothered the danger.

With 30 minutes played, Andreas Hinkel picked up a careless clearance by Ruben Palazuelos and fired in Celtic's first attempt on goal, but sent it over the bar.

As the interval approached, Driver came close to clinching his second of the afternoon with a powerful strike from the left-hand side of the penalty area, but Boruc pulled off a fine save to parry the ball wide for a corner.

Andrew Driver
Andrew Driver celebrates scoring the opener at Celtic Park

Following the break, Celtic pushed for the equaliser, but a resolute Hearts continued to press for a second goal and Gary Caldwell was called into action to nod a Bruno Aguiar corner over the bar in the 52nd minute.

Three minutes later, Scott Brown fired in a good effort from distance that flashed wide of the post.

With 20 minutes to play, Georgios Samaras looked certain to find the net when he broke free inside the Hearts penalty area, but lost his footing and was dispossessed.

Nade replied immediately at the other end with a searching strike that flew wide of the mark.

Celtic finally earned an equaliser in the 79th minute when Nakamura flighted a ball in from the right-hand edge of the penalty area and Samaras nodded down for McManus to head in from two yards out.

Scott McDonald almost made it two for the home side with a powerful shot across the face of goal that inched past Jan Balogh's right-hand post.

In the dying minutes of injury time, McGeady tried with a solo effort from distance but watched as his shot went four yards wide of the post.


Celtic manager Gordon Strachan: "I think we were really poor in the first half and maybe it was a hangover from the game on Wednesday.

"We improved to average in the second half, but it was enough to get the ball around their box and get a few chances and get the crowd up.

"Average should have done it, but because we were so poor in the first half, it was a problem with us."

Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo: "I'm a little bit angry, but that's football. We dominated the game in the first half and had very good chances.

"In the whole 90 minutes my goalkeeper didn't have any saves to make from Celtic.

"I must compliment my team, they played the kind of football I like and especially here at Celtic Park you must be careful what you play and you must push to open it.

"I think tactically it was a good game for my team and if you look closely, Celtic's goal came from nothing."


Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Wilson (Naylor 65), Nakamura, Scott Brown, Hartley, McGeady, McDonald, Maloney (Samaras 30). Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Sheridan, Crosas, O'Dea, Mizuno.

Goals: McManus 79.

Hearts: Balogh, Neilson, Berra, Karipidis, Palazuelos, Jonsson, Kingston (Obua 60), Aguiar (Cesnauskis 65), Zaliukas, Driver, Nade (Mole 90). Subs Not Used: MacDonald, Makela, Thomson, Rapnik.

Booked: Neilson, Kingston, Balogh.

Goals: Driver 23.

Att: 56,079

Ref: C Richmond

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Heart's Andrew Driver 7.89 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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see also
SPL photo gallery
13 Dec 08 |  Scottish Premier
SPL as it happened
13 Dec 08 |  Scottish Premier
Statue honours Celtic star Jinky
13 Dec 08 |  Scotland


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