EMOTIONS ran high throughout the cinch Premiership match between Hearts and Aberdeen, two teams attempting to extend their 100 per cent starts in the league and claim top spot in the table from Hibernian, at Tynecastle.
A crowd of 17,449 packed into the Gorgie ground – the first full house since the Covid-19 outbreak in March last year – this afternoon and those in attendance created a raucous atmosphere from kick-off to the final whistle.
There was little free-flowing football for either set of supporters to savour as a result. But no quarter was given by either side during 90 frenetic minutes and it was a compelling spectacle. It was maybe no great surprise when trouble flared after honours had finished even.
Referee Bobby Madden, who had earlier shown yellow cards to Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass and his assistant Henry Apaloo for comments they had made on the touchline to his fourth official Nick Walsh, had to step in and separate visiting captain Scott Brown from Hearts manager Robbie Neilson.
Yet, Neilson, whose side were denied a victory when Funso Ojo got on the end of a Dean Campbell delivery and cancelled out the second-half penalty that Liam Boyce had converted with his first ever goal for the Pittodrie club, loved every single minute of the madness.
“It’s brilliant isn’t it?” he said with a smile when he was asked about the exchange. “There were a few words said. But from our perspective it’s done and dusted. There was a wee bit edge on the game, as there always is here.
“But you want a game like that for the first one with the fans back – where everyone is fighting, everyone is after it, the intensity of the game is there. Yes, we would have liked three points, but I thought it was great.”
The standard of play produced by the home team – who took the lead 11 minutes into the second-half after Madden ruled that Declan Gallagher had brought down Gary Mackay-Steven in his area – could have been better.
<p> Their manager suspects it will take time for his charges to adjust to the turnstiles being reopened en masse after 17 months. Still, he has no complaints about the start the Championship champions have made in the top flight. Their city rivals are only ahead of them on goal difference. </p> <p> “I don’t think we saw any of that passion last season when there were no fans here,” he said. “But that is part of football. The players, the coaching staff, haven’t been used to that recently. I think when it comes everybody is at it, everybody is desperate to go. </p> <p> “I have watched this season and there are a number of managers getting yellow cards, players getting yellow cards, just because of that intensity. We are just getting back used to having it there. It will settle down." </p> <p> Neilson added: “I thought Bobby done well today. I thought Nick handled the technical area really well as well. Tynecastle is one of the places where you are about three yards apart. So I thought both of them handled it really well today. It was a good game, but it was quite intense. </p> <p> “It’s a brilliant start to be sitting top of the league. We go to Dundee United next week and if we get a good result up there we can maybe get to 10 points and be on top of the league again. It’s been great, but there are 35 games to go.” </p> <p> The arrival of Wales midfielder Ben Woodburn from Liverpool on loan this week should help Hearts to build on their encouraging performances to date.