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<-Page <-Team Thu 25 Nov 2004 FC Basel 1 Hearts 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Daily Record ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Gary Ralston auth-> Kristinn Jakobsson
[C Carignano 76]
6 of 018 Dennis Wyness 31 ;Robbie Neilson 89 E A


Nov 26 2004

Neilson the Hearts hero as late strike gives Robbo a dream win in Switzerland; Basel 1 Hearts 2

By Gary Ralston

A ROBBIE NEILSON rifle shot put Hearts in UEFA Cup dreamland last night with a stunning victory in Switzerland.

The full-back struck a glorious winner with two minutes left to put John Robertson's boys on the brink of the last 32.

A win against Hungarians Ferencvaros at Murrayfield on December 16 will leave them on six points in Group A, almost certainly guaranteeing European football in the new year.

It looked as if Hearts' hopes would be left hanging by a thread when Basel sub Cesar Carignano cancelled out Dennis Wyness' first-half opener with only 14 minutes left.

But that was before Neilson's stunning strike handed the brave boys from Gorgie one of their most famous Euro wins.

A Joe Hamill cross from the left was nodded out to Neilson by sub Phil Stamp and the defender didn't even break stride as he hit a powerful shot from 16 yards past keeper Pascal Zuberbuhler.

The 2000 Hearts fans inside the St Jakob Stadium went wild with delight as Robertson and his backroom team danced jigs of joy on the touchline.

They deserve every praise going as they lived up to Robbo's promise to go for broke in a bid to get their first three points of the UEFA Cup campaign.

They went into the game knowing Schalke had already qualified for the last 32 after their 2-0 win earlier in the evening against Ferencvaros in Germany.

The loss of suspended duo Patrick Kisnorbo and Paul Hartley was a blow Robbo could have done without but he drafted Michael Stewart and Hamill into his midfield.

Robertson was adventurous up front, with Wyness slotting into the forward hole behind front two Mark de Vries and Ramon Pereira.

Southampton manager Steve Wigley was a spectator, keen to run his eye over Jambos stars such as Scotland defender Andy Webster and full-back Alan Maybury, with the Irish international out of contract at the end of the season.

If Hearts needed any extra encouragement before kick-off it surely came when Basel fans unfurled a banner that ran the length of the stand behind keeper Pascal Zuberbuhler's goal, reading 'Brave enough to break Hearts'.

Robertson decided to push Jamie McAllister inside from his usual berth on the left side to occupy Kisnorbo's role as midfield anchor, with Stewart further forward.

However, in the opening moments the Jambos were forced on to the back foot.

After two minutes midfielder Ben Huggel flashed a header wide from a Scott Chipperfield free-kick and Aussie cap Chipperfield - good legs but an even better engine - popped up behind Neilson on the left moments later.

His cross broke to Matias Delgado, whose low shot from the edge of the area was well held at full stretch by Craig Gordon.

The Scotland No.1 was involved again minutes later to deny Delgado as Basel came close to the opener.

Midfielder Delgado's fierce shot from 25 yards was parried by the keeper, who was on his feet immediately to grasp the rebound - a header from Julio Rossi on which thankfully he could not find power.

Hearts rallied and began to take a grip in midfield and might have snatched the opener themselves in 26 minutes - with a little help from the ref.

An attempted clearance from Basel defender Marco Zwyssig cannoned off Icelandic whistler Kristinn Jacobsson into the path of Stewart on the left.

He immediately played in Wyness, who took one touch and sent a low left-foot shot whizzing inches wide.

However, the striker was involved four minutes later as Hearts took the lead.

Pereira cut in from the left to play a pass inside to Hamill.

He fed the ball inside again to Wyness whose low left-foot shot flew past the helpless Zuberbuhler as Basel defenders furiously claimed Pereira had wandered into an offside position.

Robertson rushed from the bench to acclaim his side but unfortunately a couple of dozen visiting fans took the celebrations a little too far when they leapt on to the trackside, with a couple of idiots likely to earn their club a UEFA rap by dancing across the field of play.

Basel were rattled and Webster powered forward to connect with a Neilson cross from the left but his header dropped wide.

The home fans were growing increasingly restless but Hearts would not be moved and Steven Pressley dived fearlessly as ever into a last-gasp tackle on Rossi as the Argentine prepared to pull the trigger from eight yards.

Hearts went looking for a second goal after the interval, Wyness and de Vries both trying their luck unsuccessfully from the edge of the box.

Basel were looking dispirited but the majority of the 21,645 fans were almost out their seats in 56 minutes when an equaliser looked on, only for Gordon to pull off the save of the night. Mile Sterjovski twisted clear on the right and his cross to the back post fell to unmarked fellow-Aussie Chipperfield.

He sank to his knees and tried to pick the spot with his header from six yards but Gordon spread himself brilliantly to block.

Hearts refused to be flustered, continued to probe patiently and Stamp almost made an immediate impact when he replaced Pereira.

The midfielder rose to nod a Stewart corner to the back post where Webster was lurking but the defender's header was held under the bar by Zuberbuhler.

Hearts made a further change in 70 minutes when the tiring Stewart was replaced by Neil MacFarlane. They were being sucked deeper and deeper into their own area as Basel searched frantically for the equaliser.

Maybury cleared a header from Carignano off the line before Gordon punched the ball clear but their resistance crumbled 14 minutes from time.

Gordon, for once, was slack with a kicked clearance and it was picked up by Delgado, who burst through the middle and fed Carignano.

The striker, who had replaced Rossi after an hour, held off a challenge from Webster to knock the ball over the keeper.

But Hearts weren't to be denied and with a minute left Neilson's thunderous strike gave them a courageous and deserved victory.

Taken from the Daily Record

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