Hearts down 10-man Celtic
Ismael Bouzid's dramatic second-half winner completed Hearts' comeback against 10-man Celtic in an enthralling Premier League clash at Tynecastle.
The visitors took the lead through Georgios Samaras after 21 minutes and looked as if they would be in for a comfortable afternoon. However, 10 minutes later Hoops' skipper Gary Caldwell was sent off for a last man tackle in the box on Jamie Mole, with Jambos' captain Michael Stewart scoring from the spot.
Despite being a man short, the Parkhead side bossed the game but in the 76th minute Bouzid headed a David Templeton cross past Artur Boruc to leave the visitors stunned and trailing SPL leaders Rangers by four points. Celtic manager Tony Mowbray will wonder how his side managed to lose ground in the title race.
The Hoops looked solid enough in the early stages and midfielder Aiden McGeady, booed by the home fans with his every touch, set Scott McDonald up in the ninth minute but the Australia international blazed his right-footed drive from 30 yards high over the bar. A minute later, though, Eggert Jonsson, playing in the Hearts midfield, tested Hoops' keeper Boruc with a drive from similar distance before Samaras' header was saved by Jambos keeper Marian Kello at the other end.
In the 16th minute McGeady drove forward and released Samaras on the left side of the box and this time Kello pushed the side-footed shot on to the post and behind for a corner, which the Edinburgh side survived. Moments later, Templeton mis-kicked his volley from 12 yards but still had time to have another attempt with his head but the ball went wide of the far post.
However, in the 21st minute, after the impressive McGeady won a corner, Celtic took the lead. Barry Robson's inswinging cross from the right was headed off the back post by McDonald but Samaras swept the rebound into the net from eight yards. It was the fifth consecutive game in which Samaras had found the net and his 10th of the season.
It looked like the visitors would cruise to three points but in the 31st minute the Jambos were back in the game. Caldwell was sent off after bringing down Mole, after Hoops defender Glenn Loovens had allowed McGeady's header to go through into his own box. Stewart sent Boruc the wrong way with spot-kick and immediately substitute Stephen McManus replaced Marc Crosas to shore up the Parkhead defence.
The game's dynamic had changed by the time the second half began but in the 51st minute the home side rode their luck when McGeady's wonderful right-footed strike from 30 yards sped past Kello only to rebound off the post with Gorgie defender Jose Goncalves completing the clearance. Celtic took heart from that near miss and moments later Samaras fired just wide of the target from the edge of the box after he had again turned the Gorgie defence with ease.
Moments later, Hearts left-back Lee Wallace did well to thwart McDonald at the near post after great work again by Samaras who had left Bouzid in his wake. Jambos substitute striker Christian Nade replaced Scott Robinson just before the hour mark as the home side tried to make the most of their numerical advantage.
However, it was Samaras who missed a great chance in the 61st minute, firing over the bar from 16 yards after McDonald had robbed Goncalves to set him up. Marc-Antoine Fortune then came on for McDonald. Celtic were clearly on top but the game dramatically turned Hearts' way in the 76th minute when Templeton's deep cross from the right was headed in by Bouzid for his first goal for the Gorgie club.
The Algerian defender, booked earlier for gesturing at the visiting support, was immediately substituted for Marius Zaliukas as Mowbray, in an act of desperation, sent on winger Niall McGinn for right-back Andreas Hinkel. The Parkhead men threw everything forward and with five minutes remaining Loovens had a net-bound header cleared off the line by Craig Thomson before Kello made a point-blank save from Fortune as somehow Hearts managed to see the game out.