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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Alan Pattullo auth-> Mike Tumilty
[D Bent 40]
3 of 003 David Obua 30F H

Hearts 1 - 1 Sunderland: Sparkling Suso providing plenty of chances but Hearts still lack striker

Published Date: 10 August 2009
By Alan Pattullo
HEARTS are a long way from the finished article, but two successive draws against English Premier League opposition in a week suggest the Tynecastle side can maintain the progress of last season.
There is, though, also evidence that Csaba Laszlo's team will also suffer from an old, damaging failing. Hearts will not be able to rely on explosive finishing on a weekly basis, even if their last two outings at Tynecastle have been ornamented with thrilling strikes from Christian Nade and, on Saturday, David Obua. It is the scuffy conversion of chances they will need to improve on.

On more than one occasion on Saturday the ball bobbled around the Sunderland six-yard box, and simply cried out to be prodded into the net. "You have to be lucky with goals," commented Obua later. "Like Boydy – he just gets in there and scores."

Hearts are currently lacking a Kris Boyd, and have long desired an out and out goalscorer. Nade works hard but is far from a master marksman. David Witteveen, who partnered him on Sunday, doesn't look like the kind of player who will snaffle up chances, and indeed did most of his best work outwith the penalty box. It is doubly frustrating for the Hearts fans, since it looks as though their prospects on the flanks have improved markedly with the arrival of Suso Santana, coupled with the retention of the currently injured Andrew Driver.

Suso possesses the talent to become the new darling of Tynecastle, and his rating with the supporters is also likely to be enhanced by his fieriness. Laszlo may need to try and rid him of a tendency to grab the shirt of opponents, and aim fly kicks at them, but when the ball is at his feet, the stadium has already begun to tremble with the hum of anticipation.

"He's a small guy, who gets in between defenders, and likes taking players on one on one," explained Obua later. "The club is going to be good for him and he will add a lot to the team.

"He is like Driver," he continued. "You don't know what he is going to do next with the ball. If both are playing it will be very hard for defenders to stop them. They are both small, and tricky. The coach has changed the tactics a bit. We are playing with two strikers so hopefully the crosses can come in from the wings."

Obua himself benefited from a Suso contribution, turning to thump a terrific finish in off the cross bar after the Spaniard's corner had been knocked on by Ismael Bouzid. The goal was later cancelled out by Darren Bent, whose poacher's instinct when following up a shot from team-mate Grant Leadbitter which had been saved, showed the Hearts fans what £10million can buy these days.

If that outlandish figure was made to seem even more ridiculous by Bent's otherwise indifferent display, then the nothing which Hearts secured Suso's services for from Tenerife highlights the fact that bargains are still available, if a manager wants to look hard enough. It is unknown how Laszlo came to be monitoring the Spanish lower leagues, but in Suso he appears to have unearthed a gem.

If he can unsettle English Premier League defences, then he will certainly give Scottish equivalents reason for anxiety. Even Sunderland substitute Kenwyne Jones was dragged back to help defend, and seemed surprised by Suso's tenacity. He literally threw the winger over his shoulder after a tangle for the ball.

This would have happened right in front of Laszlo, had he not decided to swap dug-outs for the coming season. He would not be drawn on why, although the suggestion that he wishes to base himself as far as possible from the fourth official seems a reasonable one.

There was little bad blood on view on Saturday, with the nearest we got to antagonism being the trading of 'England' and 'Scotland' shouts between the home and away fans, nearly 3,000 of whom had travelled from the north-East. They watched a game drift to a rather lame conclusion. Laszlo appears satisfied that his team are almost ready for their opening day encounter with Dundee United a week today, and the hectic six day period thereafter.

"I have a better view," he smiled wryly, when asked about the dug-out change. But wherever he sits, he cannot fail to observe how his team would benefit from a clinical finisher. He has not ruled out adding a striker to his squad this week.

• Hearts' Europa League opponents Dinamo Zagreb showed their strength on Saturday, winning 5-2 away at Sesvete to maintain their 100 per cent record at the top of the Croatian league after three rounds of fixtures. Dimitrios Papadopoulos opened the scoring for Zagreb before doubles from Mario Mabdukic and Pedro Morales.

Taken from the Scotsman

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