London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sun 21 May 2000 Hearts 2 Hibernian 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Jim Jefferies <-auth None auth-> Hugh Dallas
[M Paatelainen 57] Martin Wylie McIntosh
2 of 002 Juanjo 30 ;Gary McSwegan 62 L SPL H

Hearts hang on for UEFA Cup place

HEARTS made it into Europe, but not before shedding the sweat of men who arrive at a border checkpoint a few minutes before their passports are due to expire.

The relief at the end of a match which also yielded their first derby victory since 1997 was an indicator of the anxiety which had seeped into the consciousness of supporters, who had assumed three weeks earlier that a place in the UEFA Cup was a formality.

The seven-point lead they held over their only challengers, Motherwell, with three matches to play hinted at an almost nonchalant qualification before lapses against Dundee United and Rangers and the victories for the Fir Park side which brought Hearts into yesterday’s showdown with Hibs under serious threat of embarrassment.

The tension was diluted, if not entirely dispelled, with the goal with which Juanjo gave the Tynecastle side a first-half lead, but set in again when Mixu Paatelainen headed an equaliser soon after the interval.

It was a tribute to Hearts’ resilience that they should produce the winner within another few minutes.

Their prospects of holding their advantage to the end were not damaged by the ordering-off of the Hibs defender, Martin McIntosh, for a challenge on Colin Cameron which brought his second yellow card.

Hibs’ own contribution to another engrossing squabble between the Edinburgh neighbours was powerful enough to cause widespread throat constriction, sweaty palms and other symptoms of an anxiety attack among the home support, especially when news of Motherwell’s two goals against Rangers began to ripple through the stands.

Given the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that Hearts should initially appear more susceptible to nervousness than a Hibs side whose insouciance was underlined by manager Alex McLeish’s decision to offer opportunities to a group of young players of promise.

Kenny Miller is already familiar to most of the country, as much for the so-called controversy over his non-selection for the Scotland squad as anything else, but Ian Murray and Tom McManus would at least match their slightly more experienced team-mate in natural ebullience.

It must be a source of great encouragement to McLeish that McManus is another young player with genuine pace, a quality that bothered the left side of the Hearts defence often enough to encourage the notion that any relaxation of vigilance in that troubled area could lead to serious damage.

Hibs also had two veterans, John Hughes and Pat McGinlay, playing their last matches for the club, which was virtually a guarantee that they would bring undiluted commitment in an attempt to make the kind of valediction that remains in the affections of the Easter Road fans for years.

During that opening quarter of the match, Hibs seemed to have more potential than the Tynecastle team to cause bother around the goal area, but it was hugely to Hearts’ credit that their own need for a positive result clearly propelled them into the effort that eventually allowed them to impose an authority which made their first-half goal unsurprising.

The anxious home support required a little patience, because their team’s superiority was cultivated, rather than ready-made. It grew out of self-belief and determination, as well as a calculated risk on the part of the Hearts manager, Jim Jefferies.

There was murmured scepticism among several observers prior to kick-off about Jefferies’ decision to give Juanjo his first start in the league campaign, but this was merely an indicator of the manager’s insistence on trying to win the game, rather than settle for the draw which would have secured their place in the UEFA Cup.

Juanjo was part of a three-man attack which also comprised Gary McSwegan and Darren Jackson, but it was the young Spaniard who blighted Hibs’ life with a beautifully-executed goal after 30 minutes.

He took possession on the right and carried the ball across the field before turning it back on to his right foot. From around 20 yards, the little forward deliberately stroked the ball with the inside of his foot far to the left of NickColgan.

It was a text-book example of how to pass the ball into the net.

Juanjo could have scored earlier, when he rushed tomeet Gordan Petric’s free header across goal from StevenPressley’s free-kick, but Colgan managed to make the block.

Even if Hearts generally looked the more competent team for two-thirds of the game, young McManus continued to impress with his speed, footwork and commitment, and he was rewarded with a moment of delirium, starting the move which brought Hibs’ equaliser and the youngster the opportunity to wallow in the acclaim of the travelling Hibs support.

McManus once again bolted down the right before stopping and holding the ball until reinforcements arrived.

He turned it back to Derek Collins, whose cross was met by the head of McGinlay.

His header to Miller brought a piece of improvisation from the striker, who tried to loop his own header high to the far corner.

The ball hit the post, but the Finnish international, Mixu Paatelainen, dived forward to head the rebound over the line from two yards.

The time of quivering nerves for the home support lasted only another four minutes, all that elapsed before McSwegan glanced another wickedly delivered free-kick from Lee Makel the latter Hearts’ most effective player past Colgan from six yards.

It was a goal properly earned by a Hearts side whose entry into the UEFA Cup may have been delayed, but could not in any way be said to be invalid.

The Teams:

Colgan; Collins, Hughes, McIntosh, Lovering; McManus (Reid 74), Brebner, Murray (Lovell 88), McGinlay; Paatelainen, Miller.

Heart of Midlothian:
Niemi; Flogel, Pressley, Petric, Naysmith; Makel (Tomaschek 85), Severin, Cameron; Juanjo, McSwegan (Murray 82), Jackson (Kirk 79).

Taken from the Scotsman

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