Hearts and Hibernian failed in their bids to reclaim top spot in the Scottish Premiership after a fierce Edinburgh derby ended in a stalemate.
Both goalkeepers made outstanding saves in a tight game at Tynecastle to keep the scores level and both teams’ unbeaten starts to the league season intact.
Hearts’ Craig Gordon denied Martin Boyle twice before denying Kyle Magennis with a stunning save, and Hibs’ Matt Macey denied Gary Mackay-Steven three times.
The result leaves both capital clubs on 11 points, one point behind leaders Rangers, and Hibs unbeaten in their last four visits to Tynecastle.
Hearts hadn’t beaten Hibs at Tynecastle since May 2018. Despite their struggles to beat them at home, they had won at Easter Road and even at Hampden while playing in a lower division than their opponents.
Early on, the main threats were coming from Robbie Neilson’s side, who were looking to leapfrog their league rivals.
Ben Woodburn ignored the attention of five white shirts to fire a pot-shot just over the crossbar. Liam Boyce’s header was off target. Stephen Kingsley’s goal-bound effort was deflected by a corner. And a rasping Mackay-Steven shot was deflected.
Hibs had the majority of the ball, but Joe Newell’s cross, which unexpectedly hit the top of the bar, was their only real chance in the first half.
However, as they began to take better care of the ball, chances began to appear. Gordon palmed away Boyle’s long-range effort, which the goalkeeper tipped around a post after the forward’s frightening pace had stretched the defence.
The game was razor-thin, and within a minute, both teams had huge chances.
Magennis of Hibs found space, but his close-range shot was poor. Then Mackay-Steven forced Macey into two great saves, the first from point-blank range as the Hearts winger broke into the box.
Mackay-Steven had been Hearts’ most dangerous player, but he left the game just after the hour mark. Josh Ginnelly, his replacement, quickly directed a header on goal, which Macey pushed away.
Hibs had been second best since the break, but just as Hearts thought they had the upper hand, they needed their goalkeeper to save them.
Kevin Nisbet’s cutback found Magennis, but Scotland goalkeeper Gordon managed to get his fingers to his skidding effort to divert it wide moments after Alex Gogic drove a left-foot shot narrowly past. A stunning halt.
The back-and-forth continued until the end. Hibs’ Nisbet volleyed wide. Then Macey had to make another save, this time from his own captain Paul Hanlon, who got into a tangle while attempting to clear a cross and skewed towards his own net.
As the desperate search for a winner continued, Nisbet and Megennis both forced further saves from Gordon, but both had to settle for a point.
Man of the match – Ben Woodburn
What did we learn?
Both teams have had a strong start to the season, and the derby demonstrated that there is little separating them.
Hearts have discovered two gems in Woodburn and Beni Baningime, and debutant Barrie McKay has shown glimpses of what he can bring. Gordon, on the other hand, was once again the hero for his team.
Hibs had their moments, but they were under more pressure than Jack Ross would have preferred for much of the game. However, they showed tenacity and had chances to take the three points, and they are now four games unbeaten at their opponent’s home.
What did they say?
“I thought it was a very entertaining match,” said Hearts manager Robbie Neilson. “It was very exciting from beginning to end, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.” We’re a little disappointed that we didn’t get the three points, but it shows how far we’ve come in the last 14,15 months.”
“I genuinely enjoyed it,” Hibs manager Jack Ross said. I came here hoping to win. Both sides had a number of opportunities. Both goalkeepers were outstanding.
“It was simply a fantastic game.” In addition, the atmosphere is fantastic. Our supporters were fantastic. We had times when we were really good and times when we had to dig in and get through tough times. We completed both parts. It’s satisfying to come here, stand up to it, and take something.
Hibernian are at home to St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday, 18 September (15:00 BST), while at the same time Hearts are away to Ross County.