Hearts snatch late draw to deny Hibs

A WONDERGOAL from Alim Ozturk rescued a point for 10-man Hearts in the Edinburgh derby at Easter Road to maintain the Scottish Championship leaders’ unbeaten run.

A WONDERGOAL from Alim Ozturk rescued a point for 10-man Hearts at Easter Road to maintain the Scottish Championship leaders’ unbeaten run.

Robbie Neilson’s side were heading towards their first league defeat of the season before Turkish defender Ozturk struck his first goal for the club in injury-time with an astonishing 40-yard shot which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.

Dominique Malonga scrambled home his fifth Hibernian goal from close range in a penalty box melee as the first half came to a close.

Callum Paterson was sent off for a rash challenge on Malonga in the 79th minute but Ozturk ensured honours were even in the second Edinburgh derby of the season with his stunning effort.

Hearts, who came out on top when the sides met at Tynecastle in August, extended their lead at the top to seven points over Rangers in second place.

Having failed to see out their narrow advantage, Hibs remain 14 points off the pace, overtaking Raith Rovers in fourth, and have now won only one of the last seven meetings with their city rivals.

September’s SPFL manager of the month Alan Stubbs made one change from last weekend’s 4-0 win at Livingston as Liam Fontaine passed a late fitness test on a thigh problem to oust Callum Booth in defence.

Hearts also altered one member of personnel from their 5-1 victory over Dumbarton last time out as fit-again captain Danny Wilson replaced defender Jordan McGhee, who dropped to the bench.

A lively atmosphere helped to generate a high-tempo opening with both sides making in-roads without creating any meaningful opportunities.

Amid a frenetic start which lacked any real flow, Hearts progressed down the left with Billy King feeding the advancing Prince Buaben, whose shot was charged down superbly by Paul Hanlon.

Hibs almost went ahead during a frantic spell on the 20 minute mark when Danny Handling’s cutback was played behind Malonga at the end of a promising move before a fierce effort from Scott Allan was beaten away by Neil Alexander.

And as the hosts ramped up the pressure, the breakthrough should have arrived four minutes later when David Gray’s long ball forward was misjudged by Wilson and Jason Cummings squared for Malonga, who stabbed agonisingly wide of target as Alexander raced out.

Stubbs’s side had unquestionably seized control with former Dundee United midfielder Allan whistling a long-range effort inches over the crossbar.

The visitors struggled to impose themselves throughout the first half but should have gone ahead on 36 minutes when Soufian El Hassnaoui outstripped Hanlon as he chased Paterson’s lofted pass and was foiled one-on-one by Mark Oxley.

Hibs continued to be menacing going forward as Handling galloped down the left flank and pulled back for Cummings, who sliced an erratic finish wide from the edge of the box.

And they deservedly broke the deadlock a minute before the break at the end of an almighty scramble in the Hearts box.

Scott Robertson’s corner caused panic with Cummings denied in the six-yard box by Adam Eckersley’s goal-line clearance before Alexander pushed the ball out as far as Malonga, who was on hand to crash the ball into the roof of the net and spark wild celebrations from the Hibs faithful.

The French-born Congolese striker glanced Allan’s teasing cross wide before Allan slashed another effort beyond the post as Hibs remained on the front foot immediately after the interval.

Seeking a change in emphasis, Hearts head coach Neilson introduced McGhee and Jamie Walker in quick succession in place of Wilson and El Hassnaoui.

And his side’s influence grew as an attacking force with Buaben and Paterson going close with dangerous cross-cum-shots which gave Oxley something to think about.

The on-loan Hull keeper became the subject of jeers from the 4,000 Hearts fans in the away end for delaying the taking of several goal-kicks and was eventually booked by Bobby Madden, taking charge of his third Edinburgh derby in 2014.

Hibs’ threat became sporadic, Hanlon heading Allan’s corner past the post, and they invited pressure as a result with Sam Nicholson sending a 25-yard drive over the crossbar for Hearts, whose frustrations only increased.

Paterson’s excellent cutback from the right was completely missed by Osman Sow before Nicholson returned the ball back into the box but there were no takers.

Hibs boss Stubbs, in constant discussion with fourth official Crawford Allan as he cut an agitated figure in the technical area, sent on Alex Harris and Sam Stanton in place of Allan and Handling with a quarter of an hour remaining.

His side remained on the backfoot as they sat back on their lead with Hearts doing the majority of the probing but their quest for an equaliser was made tougher 10 minutes from time.

Paterson, who scored twice at Easter Road to give Hearts victory in April, scythed down Malonga from behind as Hibs sought to break out and was shown a straight red card by referee Madden.

Backed by the vocal home crowd, Hibs sought to make the most of their numerical advantage with Cummings nodding over Stanton’s dinked centre and Fontaine arching a header onto the roof of the net from a diagonal pass from Dylan McGeouch.

Hearts, who had scored seven previous goals in the final five minutes of games this term, did not give up hope of snatching something late on by throwing bodies forward.

And their rewards came in the second minute of stoppage time in an extraordinary circumstances when Ozturk let fly from distance to stun the Hibs fans into silence.

Although their unbeaten run now stands at six games, it leaves Stubbs’s side with just two wins from six home league games this term as their promotion bid continues to falter.

With both sides seeking an immediate return to the Premiership this season, the bitter blow for Hibs will only add to high-flying Hearts’ momentum.

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Substitutes:  Harris (for Allan 74′), Stanton (for Handling 74′), Kennedy (for Cummings 84′)

Booked:  Oxley (68), Stevenson (78)

Goals:  Malonga (44)

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Substitutes:  Walker (for El Hassnaoui 55′), McGhee (for Wilson 58′), Buchanan (for King 87′).

Booked:  Buaben (48), Gomis (70)

Sent-off:  Paterson (79)

Goals:  Ozturk (90+2)

Prominent figure: Madden has become one of the leading match officials in Scotland (Picture by Adam Higgins)

Referee:  Bobby Madden (Scotland) – 9/10
Assistant referees: 
Douglas Ross and Graham Chambers
Fourth official: 
Crawford Allan (Scotland)

Attendance:  14,562

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