London Hearts Supporters Club

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

Neilson snatches a famous victory


Basel 1 Carignano (76)
Hearts 2 Wyness (31), Neilson (89)

Referee: K Jakobsson (Ice). Attendance: 21,645.

HEARTS’ hopes of qualifying for the last 32 of the UEFA Cup were given a massive boost last night when Robbie Neilson snatched an improbable victory a minute from time.

A first-half goal from Dennis Wyness had put them on course to emulate last year’s dramatic triumph in Bordeaux, but after Cesar Carignano’s equaliser, John Robertson’s side looked like they were only holding on for the draw. Then, on a rare incursion up-field, Phil Stamp headed down a cross from Joe Hamill, and Neilson’s low shot found the corner of the net.

The result was a complete vindication of Robertson’s decision to go for broke, although the job is still only half done. Hearts now sit out the next round of games, then play Ferencvaros at Murrayfield on 16 December. Victory there should take them through.

With Paul Hartley and Patrick Kisnorbo suspended, changes from the side which lost to Schalke were inevitable. The specific ones for which Robertson opted, however, were very bold. The coach had said he would field an attacking line-up, and he did that, all right, with Mark de Vries, Ramon Pereira and Wyness all starting. In the middle of the park, Robertson gave Michael Stewart a massive vote of confidence, selecting the on-loan Scotland international for just his third start of the season.

As early as the third minute the size of the task facing Hearts was made apparent when Benjamin Huggel came close to opening the scoring from a free-kick which Scott Chipperfield whipped into the box. Despite the apparent lack of contact from the Hearts defence, the Icelandic referee awarded a corner, which Craig Gordon mopped up at the second attempt.

A free-kick of their own, awarded for a trip on Hamill, gave Hearts their first half-chance a few minutes later. Stewart and Jamie McAllister both stood over the ball, shaping up to cross into the box. Instead, McAllister slid the ball to Alan Maybury, who blasted over from 30 yards out.

The Swiss champions, while not sitting back too much, were able to play patiently. Having prised a valuable away point from Schalke in their only previous Group A match, they had the comfort of being more secure than opponents who had played two and lost two. They were also at ease playing the counter-attacking game, and should have taken the lead with one rapid break after quarter of an hour. A fierce volley by Matias Delgado was parried by Gordon straight into the path of Julio Rossi, but, perhaps caught slightly unawares, the latter could do no more than direct a feeble header straight back into the hands of the Hearts goalkeeper.

Undaunted, the Scottish side stuck to their guns, and found cause for optimism in the odd chink they discovered in the home defence. Their best chance of the first half-hour, however, owed a little to good fortune - or, more specifically, to Mr Jakobsson. When the ball bounced off the referee into his path, Stewart steadied himself then passed to Wyness, who took a touch with his right foot, then with his left produced a shot which evaded Pascal Zuberbuhler, but drifted just wide of the far post.

That looked like the kind of missed opportunity which might be rued later on, but in the 31st minute, just two after Wyness’ miss, Hearts were ahead. Pereira and Hamill did well to maintain possession on the edge of the box, and the latter found Wyness in a yard or so of space. Wyness’ well-directed shot beat the keeper with Pereira, who was in a clear offside position, seeming to make sure from around six yards out. However, it seemed to be judged that the Spaniard had made no contact and the goal stood. Half-a-dozen Hearts fans ran on to the pitch in celebration. All were quickly escorted off by the stadium stewards.

Basel were knocked off their stride for a while, and Hearts had another decent chance when De Vries failed by a foot or so to get to an Andy Webster knockdown. In the last minute before the break, De Vries and Zuberbuhler tangled with each other. It was a mild incident, but a section of the home support responded to it by indulging in racist abuse of the Dutch striker.

Given the number of openings Basel had had in the first half, an equaliser seemed probable, and it would have come after ten minutes of the second period, but for a point-blank save by Gordon from Chipperfield’s diving header. Frustration was creeping into Basel’s game, and it showed with 25 minutes to play when Christian Gimenez was booked for a trip on Steven Pressley.

Stamp came on for Pereira, then Neil MacFarlane replaced Stewart as Hearts tried to shore up their midfield. Carignano, a Basel substitute, almost equalised with 15 minutes left, but Maybury blocked, then Gordon punched clear before Marco Zwyssig could reach the rebound.

It was virtually one-way traffic by this time, and Basel at last got the goal their pressure deserved when Delgado seized on a poor clearance by Gordon and put Carignano through. This time the sub made no mistake.

Hearts looked out of it, but then came Neilson’s dramatic equaliser.

Basel: Zuberbuhler, Zwyssig, Huggel, Sterjovski (D Degen 71), Chipperfield, Gimenez, Kleber, Delgado (Barberis 85), P Degen, Smiljanic, Rossi (Carignano 62). Subs not used: Quennoz, Mandl.

Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Maybury, McAllister, Stewart (MacFarlane 70), Hamill, Wyness, De Vries (Weir 86), Pereira (Stamp 66). Subs not used: Moilanen, Berra, Sloan, Janczyk.

Taken from the Scotsman

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