Hearts hold McGeady's Bhoys to a draw

Hearts 1 Celtic 1

Hearts 1 Celtic 1

Celtic failed to build on their perfect start at Tynecastle as Bruno Aguiar’s spectacular free-kick dealt a blow to their Clydesdale Bank Premier League title hopes.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink took less than 30 seconds to continue his scoring spree when Janos Balogh fumbled his volley into the net.

But Aguiar curled home from 30 yards just after the half-hour mark and Celtic failed to reassert their control apart from a late flurry.

Hoops manager Gordon Strachan had made four changes, two of which were enforced as Lee Naylor and Vennegoor of Hesselink replaced the injured Darren O’Dea and Georgios Samaras.

Strachan also gave an indication of the threat posed Hearts by steeling his midfield with Gary Caldwell and Willo Flood, and dropping Shunsuke Nakamura and Marc Crosas to the bench. Glenn Loovens replaced Caldwell in central defence.

Celtic got off to an incredible start when Vennegoor of Hesselink volleyed home his third goal in eight days. And how the Dutchman must have wished for the goalkeeping that met his strike when he was going through his six-month barren spell.

Balogh got down two hands to the striker’s volley but fumbled it into the corner.

Hearts had been sloppy throughout the build-up, allowing Andreas Hinkel to return the ball towards the penalty spot after an Aiden McGeady cross had only been half-cleared.

The hosts responded positively and forced a succession of corners, one of which led to Marius Zaliukas heading over from six yards after Ruben Palazuelos had lofted the ball in.

Stephen McManus was booked for bringing down Calum Elliot after the Hearts striker had beaten him midway inside Celtic’s half, but the visitors soon settled down.

Caldwell released Vennegoor of Hesselink but the Dutchman fired beyond the far post from a difficult angle.

The Holland international then got his head to Naylor’s near-post corner but the ball bounced off the outside of the goal frame.

Celtic were looking comfortable but Aguiar hit a spectacular equaliser in the 32nd minute.

Michael Stewart won a foul 30 yards out after pipping Caldwell to the ball and Aguiar curled the free-kick over the wall and into the corner with Artur Boruc well beaten.

Hearts finished the half the stronger side. The lively Elliot found half a yard just inside the box but his powerful strike was blocked by the upper body of Loovens, with referee Craig Thomson waving away hopeful penalty claims.

Celtic were forced into another change at half-time with pre-match injury doubt McManus going off. Crosas came on and Caldwell immediately found himself under pressure after moving into defence.

Zaliukas shot inches wide after a powerful run to the edge of the box. Aguiar then volleyed well over after a long throw under pressure from the quiet Flood, who immediately made way for Nakamura.

The Japan midfielder soon had a chance to show his dead-ball skills when Naylor was awarded a soft free-kick 20 yards out. But Hearts got lucky when Elliot appeared to block Nakamura’s strike with raised hands.

Hearts still had the edge though and Zaliukas won the ball from Aguiar’s free-kick into the box but the ball looped high over the bar.

Celtic enjoyed a decent spell of pressure but Loovens could not react quickly enough when Nakamura’s corner fell at his feet six yards out and he spooned the ball high into the stand.

Loovens then got his team into trouble with a poor defensive header following a long throw but Driver volleyed wide from a difficult chance.

Balogh got down well to hold a powerful long-range drive by Nakamura, whose compatriot Koki Mizuno replaced McGeady with eight minutes left.

The Japanese pair had good chances as Celtic piled on some late pressure. Nakamura’s curling effort was forced just wide by a brilliant block from Zaliukas after Naylor had set up his team-mate 16 yards out.

And Mizuno blasted wide after a long throw fell perfectly for him 12 yards out.

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