Dinamo Zagreb 4 Hearts 0
ROBERT MARTIN in Zagreb
Published: 21 Aug 2009
AT home they think refs are out to get them - but here in Zagreb, Hearts were left with NO excuses at all.
The Jambos were just beaten - hammered in fact - fair and square by a better, hungrier, more clinical side.
Dinamo scored four but it could have been more.
Csaba Laszlo's side had ONE shot at goal during a dismal 90 minutes. They couldn't even blame the pitch.
Just like that the European dream they battled so hard to achieve last season is over. Next week's return leg is simply a matter of pride.
How Laszlo lifts his side for Rangers on Sunday remains to be seen after they were outclassed in every department by the Croatian champions.
The only positive was that they didn't have anyone sent off but even that was because they couldn't get close to the men in dark blue.
Their gameplan was left in ruins as early as the fifth minute.
Laszlo had set up his side with the simple aim of keeping Dinamo at bay, with anything else an added bonus ahead of the return.
That meant left-back Jose Goncalves filling in on the left-hand side of midfield as part of a giant Hearts side, where only right winger Suso stood under six foot.
Marius Zaliukas, banned for another three games in the SPL, formed a centre back pairing with new boy Ismael Bouzid.
And Christian Nade, not yet fit enough to play a full game back home, was asked to play as a lone striker in the near 30 degree heat with David Obua in support.
The idea was to shut down a side that had scored five goals in their last league game against Osijek at the weekend. But early crunching challenges from Carlos and Dimitrious Papadopolous on Suso and Bouzid showed Dinamo would test them to the hilt.
The Croats almost scored as early as the second minute when Pedro Morales curled a free-kick over after Bouzid fouled Papadopolous.
Hearts keeper Marian Kello looked less than clever when Dinamo marched into the lead three minutes later.
Ruben Palazuelos lost out to Morales in midfield and he fed Sammir, who made a mug out of Goncalves.
His cross to the back post caught out Kello who was falling backwards and it may even have dropped in on its own. But just to make sure Mario Mandzukic was on hand to nod over the line.
It was the 23-year-old's seventh goal in his last eight games and it was easy to see just why he is expected to leave Zagreb for one of Europe's big leagues.
Sammir then blazed over in the 10th minute as Zaliukas frantically waved his arms about trying to lift the men in maroon.
A mistake by Michael Stewart let Milan Badelj and Mandzukic break forward as the home side kept up their strong start. And on the touchline Laszlo could barely contain his rage, turning and ranting at assistant Werner Burger as his side struggled to make an impact.
Dinamo's rhythm was briefly interrupted in the 20th minute when Etto went off injured to be replaced by Ivan Tomecak.
But the respite was brief as Kello had to beat away a Papadopolous header and then hold Mandzukic's effort when he was given too much space at the corner.
Morales then clipped the top of the Jambos crossbar from 25 yards in the 23rd minute with Hearts still all over the place. Obua and Nade were anonymous, Stewart and Palazuelos were unable to get on the ball and their defensive pals were being run ragged.
When Hearts did manage a rare attack, Suso's free kick didn't even manage to clear Dinamo's first man while Lee Wallace's cross was easily gathered by Tomislav Butina.
Things got worse for the Jambos in the 36th minute when Dinamo finally increased their lead.
Sammir's initial shot was headed away by Bouzid but only to Mandzukic. His effort was palmed away by Kello but Papadopolous was there to nod into an empty net.
Never mind the game, Hearts were now fighting to stay in the tie.
Their 1,000 fans stood in silence as Nade was booked for a late challenge on Igor Biscan.
The half-time whistle sparked an exchange between Laszlo and
Zaliukas with the stopper indicating he didn't feel his defence was getting enough protection.
Ian Black appeared at the start of the second half in place of Bouzid and the change appeared to inject some life into the Jambos, with Suso's 49th-minute shot forcing Butina into a decent save.
But in the 56th minute it was all over bar the shouting when Ivor Vrdoljak hit the third.
Black felt he had been fouled but Russian ref Nikolay Ivanov waved play on and Vrdoljak jinked inside Eggert Jonsson before unleashing a stunning 25-yard effort into the top corner.
Dinamo made it four on the hour mark when former Liverpool defender Biscan was left unmarked at the front post to nod a Morales corner past the helpless Kello.
By this stage Laszlo was no longer prowling along the touchline.
He was slumped on his bench as Papadopolous hit the post four minutes from time.
The result matched the Jambos' worst in Europe, a 5-1 thumping from Standard Liege in 1958 and a 4-0 defeat by Inter Milan three years later.
And they had no one to blame but themselves.