London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Thu 06 Nov 2003 FC Girondins de Bordeaux 0 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Kristinn Jakobsson
5 of 007 Mark de Vries 78 E A

Victory beyond our expectations


CRAIG Levein expressed his delight with Hearts’ 1-0 victory in the south-west of France last night, but tempered his pleasure with a warning that the tie was still very much alive.

That had in fact been the aim of the Tynecastle club’s manager before the first leg of the UEFA Cup second-round match kicked off, but he admitted he had been more prepared for a narrow defeat than the slender win which sent the several thousand already vocal visiting supporters into raptures.

"I’m very pleased," said Levein, who was as self- possessed after the game as his side had been during it. "A good result for us would possibly have been to lose by a single goal - 2-1 or 1-0. To win was beyond our expectations.

"We had to get a lot of players behind the ball and hope that when we got an opportunity we’d score. Bordeaux had chances, but sometimes you need a little bit of luck.

"They are a top-class team, far better than us. I’ve got a problem, because I’d expected to lose. Now I’ll have to rethink my tactics for the home leg."

There is no doubting Bordeaux’s technical ability, but, besides lacking the little bit of fortune mentioned by Levein, the French side were also surprised by the fortitude, both physical and mental, shown by their opponents. "I’m proud of every one of my players," the Hearts manager added.

"It isn’t the physical work that’s tiring, it’s the mental concentration required against a very technically able side. But we have to remember it’s only half-time in the tie."

Levein’s decision to keep faith in goalkeeper Craig Gordon ahead of Tepi Moilanen was fully justified as the 20-year-old pulled off a string of fine saves. Conscious of keeping his player’s feet on the ground, though, the coach was unwilling to single out his keeper for praise.

"He was called upon three or four times in the match and I’m pleased for him, but the most important thing is to talk about the team. Anyway, we’ll worry about the return leg later. We’ve got a game on Sunday," he ended, referring to the Premierleague match against Aberdeen at Pittodrie this weekend which Hearts had wanted to have postponed to allow them to concentrate fully on their annual remembrance service.

As well as praising their players, both Levein and the Hearts chief executive Chris Robinson spoke well of the supporters, who had turned up in their thousands and had kept up an almost continuous barrage of chanting. "They were magnificent," Levein said. "The noise they made was incredible."

Selling their entire allocation of 3,100 match briefs, Hearts took their biggest travelling support to Bordeaux since the UEFA Cup quarter-final against Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium in March 1989.

"There were 15,000 supporters in the stadium tonight and you would have thought it was 15,000 Hearts fans. We’re absolutely delighted for them," said Robinson. "They all came out here to have a good time but the football is important too and no doubt they will be able to enjoy a wee glass of wine on the way home.

"The proof of the pudding is in the results - it’s hard to be any better than the third team in Scotland but that’s what we managed to do last season and get into Europe. Now we are working even harder to make sure we stay there."

Some players, among them the captain Steven Pressley, threw their jerseys into the away end at full-time, but one of those who did not was the goalscorer, Mark de Vries, who tapped into the net on 78 minutes after Kevin McKenna had eluded his marker to head a Paul Hartley chip across goal. "I wanted to keep mine as a special memory," said the Dutch striker, who was especially pleased to make his mark in France, where he had passed an unhappy time several years ago. "That was at Niort five years ago. Some people tried to break me then. But I was just a kid."

Michel Pavon, the Bordeaux coach, said he could not be too harsh on his players despite the unexpected defeat. "I can’t say too much against my team. They did what they could. A 0-0 would have been better for us because then Hearts would have had to come out and go for a goal in the second leg."

Both coaches, then, will have to revise their plans before that return match at Tynecastle on Thursday, 27 November. There is no doubting, however, which of the two will be happier to accept that extra labour.

Taken from the Scotsman

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