Football: BEATING CELTS DOESN'T ERASE OLD FIRM HELL; Niemi Haunted by 5-1defeat

Article excerpt

ANTTI NIEMI last night insisted Hearts' memorable victory over Celtic on Saturday didn't make up for his 5-1 Old Firm hell.

The last time the Finnish keeper played at Parkhead, Rangers suffered a nightmare defeat as Jozef Venglos' Hoops went on the rampage.

While he concedes the Jambos' 3-2 win was the best he has felt after a game in years, he insists it doesn't erase the memories of that afternoon in November 1998.

Doubles from Henrik Larsson and Lubomir Moravcik, and a single from Mark Burchill, consigned the Ibrox club to one of their heaviest derby defeats in decades.

Niemi never had the opportunity again to return to the East End under Advocaat but on Saturday he turned in one of his best performances as Celts' championship hopes crashed.

After going 2-0 down, Hearts pulled themselves back with strikes from midfielder Colin Cameron and defender Gary Naysmith.

It was then Niemi started to turn on the style.

He pulled off three brilliant saves, one from Colin Healy and two from Moravcik.

"It felt good when it was 2-2 and I pulled off the saves," he said last night. "I was in goal when we lost 5-1 so it was a great feeling.

"To be honest, nothing would make up for that game. The Old Firm clash is different but I knew what that meant to the Hearts fans. Saturday's win against Celtic was a very big afternoon for me - and the rest of the Hearts players.

"It was no surprise to me that we battled back as there is great fighting spirit in the team, although when Mark Viduka had the chance to make it 3-0 I had to thank my lucky stars.

"Public opinion had Celtic down as winners before a ball had even been kicked but afterwards was just brilliant.

"That's the best I've felt after a game for years and it's definitely one of my best memories, although I think as a former Rangers player I was getting more abuse from the Celtic fans than anyone as we walked off the pitch. …