London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Daily Record ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Hugh Keevins auth-> Levan Paniashvili
[D Rosa 30]
25 of 025 ----- E H


Dec 17 2004

BIG MATCH VERDICT Just another night in Europe for Scotland

By Hugh Keevins

HEARTS started last night's game as Scotland's sole survivors in Europe and ended the match against Ferencvaros as the latest victims in a multiple pile-up.

The Edinburgh side joined Glasgow's Old Firm on the list of European casualties for this season and added another name to the inquest into whatever happened to Scottish football on the big stage.

The cause of the latest fatality will be recorded as heroic failure - but it is still elimination by any other name.

The Hungarians scored against the run of play and Hearts couldn't recover from the setback despite the obligatory catalogue of chances in front of goal.

When the news filtered into Murrayfield that Basel had taken the lead against Feyenoord in Switzerland, the last half-hour was played out to the accompaniment of nearly 30,000 anguished voices screaming in frustration.

Just another night in Europe for a Scottish side, really.

The average fan could sue for breach of promise on the basis that what needs to be delivered can look tantalisingly obtainable - but then defences nod off and nippy little foreign forwards take immediate advantage of them.

You know the script. So did Ferencvaros when they scored in that fashion during the first half and the even more galling thing for Hearts was that the Hungarians' win did them no good in the end either.

Hearts' objective was to avoid the biggest kick to a sensitive area the club had received since Klaus Augenthaler got them with a stunning volley in the UEFA Cup in 1989.

The German scored the goal that gave Bayern Munich an aggregate victory over Alex MacDonald's side in the quarter-finals of the competition and stopped the Jambos from boarding the Starship Enterprise and going boldly where no Hearts man had gone before in Europe.

Reaching the last 32 for the start of 2005 might not have carried the same level of distinction as almost reaching a European semi-final.

But it sounded good enough to John Robertson as part of his plan to make a managerial imprint on the club he had served heroically as a player.

The one-time ace of Hearts isn't playing with a full deck. The club he navigates is in danger of having to move from its spiritual home at Tynecastle and take up temporary residence at Murrayfield.

A dozen players are out of contract at the end of the season and the manager needed the incentive of European football after Christmas to encourage them to stay.

All of which made the defeat of Ferencvaros, and the complicity of Lady Luck in Switzerland putting Hearts into the knock-out stages of the UEFA Cup, part of an attempt to produce a feel-good factor. As if.

But Robbo yielded to temptation himself to begin with by ignoring Rangers' experience of the night before against Auxerre and tinkering with personnel and positioning.

Alan Maybury was an expected return after serving a European suspension but Joe Hamill was replaced by Michael Stewart and Ramon Pereira was dumped in favour of Jamie McAllister in the middle of the park.

The pressure was the same regardless of personnel. But Ferencvaros wore the green of Hibs and went into a pre-match huddle similar to Celtic, so motivation was the least of Hearts' problems.

Most of those were caused by the fatal fascination that Scottish clubs have for letting fate twist them round its little finger.

Hearts ran up a succession of genuine chances and each time they thought they had broken the deadlock there would be a fresh backhander from the gods above.

Paul Hartley was even teased into thinking he'd scored in the 13th minute until the referee belatedly decided he had handled the ball before driving a low shot beneath the unfortunately named Lajos Szucs.

They were even tormented at the other end of the park when Marek Penska missed a sitter from a cut-back and Hearts were lulled into the false sense of security.

It was all a cruel plot to toy with their emotions - just like the news transmitted at the same time that Basel had missed a penalty and were still walking the same European tightrope as Hearts.

The real truth of the matter was exposed after 30 minutes when Peter Lipscei's pass split Hearts' defence and Denes Rosa scored at the third attempt after twice hitting Craig Gordon with the ball in a drawn out game of beat the goalie.

It wasn't that Hearts were doing much wrong. It was simply the case that if it wasn't for bad luck they wouldn't have had any luck at all.

The squad shuffling worked because Stewart was having an outstanding game and McAllister was similarly effective. But fate refused to accommodate Hearts with so much as an even break in front of goal.

Scottish sides don't recover their composure, score twice after going behind and then find out that a team from Holland has done them a massive favour in Switzerland.

They just go out of whatever competition they are playing in and then bemoan their fate afterwards.

But Celtic came up short against Milan when it mattered, as did Rangers against Auxerre.

And Dunfermline couldn't get past a bunch of Icelandic amateurs in the UEFA Cup qualifiers.

It can't be all about bad luck or the fickle finger of fate. Not being good enough has to come into the equation as well. And frequently has done over the last 10 days in these parts.

Taken from the Daily Record

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