London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Thu 27 Aug 2009 Hearts 2 Dinamo Zagreb 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Knut Kircher
4 of 008 Michael Stewart 17 ;Marius Zaliukas 55 E H

Gallant Hearts go out on a high

Gorgie side restore optimism and pride with superb win over Dinamo but doubts persist over Laszlo's future after Euro exit
MISSION Impossible it was supposed to be. More like mission accomplished. They might have exited the Europa League play-off with a 4-2 aggregate defeat against Dinamo Zagreb, but Hearts restored pride by the shedload both for themselves and the shattered community of Scottish football last night.

A display of defiance, craft and good old-fashioned Scottish tenacity almost brought equilibrium with the champions of Croatia, who at times were overawed in the tight confines of Tynecastle. In Zagreb they looked untouchable but, in Edinburgh, Krunoslav Jurcic's side were rendered ordinary by the real Heart of Midlothian – not the pale imitation which surrendered 4-0 in the Maksimir Stadium last week. One of the catalysts for the victory was an 18-year-old academy pupil making his first competitive appearance. Craig Thomson, deputising at right-back for the injured Eggert Jonsson, will take some shifting from the team on last night's evidence. Athleticism, strength in the tackle, good positional sense and distribution mark him out as a prospering talent and one who is maturing rapidly. Indeed, it was from his corner that Marius Zaliukas scored Hearts' second goal.

The victory brought a mix of emotions for Csaba Laszlo, the Hearts manager. Understandable pride at the transformation of his team but ultimate frustration at the damage suffered in Croatia. He continues to ruminate on his future following reported interest from Hannover 96 but betrayed a willingness to stay in Edinburgh and return to the European arena next year.

"I hope with all my heart, with me or without me, to qualify this team for the Europa League next season. I want these young guys to enjoy European football," he said. "I think this is a great club. Heart of Midlothian is a club which, if they perform and keep players together, can have a nice future."

Asked if he will be here to lead any possible return to Europe, he replied: "I don't know. You don't know what happens tomorrow or after tomorrow. I have two years left on my contract and I would like to stay here, definitely, but I would like to have protection from the club."

He later defined protection as "support", adding: "For me, it's not a question of leaving, I would like to have support. The support is not only to win games or if you have good times, it's also in the bad times. If you see the young faces in the dressing-room, they need guidance.

"We must be clear. I was very happy to hear from the board that we don't get any new players. I accept this because we don't lose a lot of energy in different directions, we don't forget to concentrate on our job and look for players and look in different directions and then lose to Dinamo Zagreb 4-0. I put my face in the front, I fight for this club, I fight for the board, I fight for everybody. Sometimes I can be tired. The important thing is I don't like to leave this team. I promised myself and I promised in the dressing-room.

"Hannover is a big club, Hearts is also a big club but I have not spoken with nobody from Hannover. If they would like to have my services they must talk with the club. I think it's logical if you have success that people talk about you. Definitely I will stay in Edinburgh.

"I don't like to go somewhere else. My family will be staying here, my children go to school here. I think I have found a new home so I want to stay here, not in Budapest or Cologne or somewhere. I like Edinburgh, I like this country and the people. This owner gave me the possibility to work at this club. I can imagine staying here ten years if I see we have a progress. I am very difficult, I know, but I always talk clear. I don't hide anything behind me. If the board call me, I don't say 'yes, yes, yes'. I say 'no' or 'this is my opinion ..'"

Laszlo is nothing if not pragmatic. Joining Thomson in making his first competitive appearance last night was 18-year-old substitute Gordon Smith. Gary Glen, 19, started a European match for the first time and Andy Driver made an eagerly anticipated return from injury. All in all, a 2-0 scoreline was gratifying for all concerned. "If you see the last two weeks, we must not be unhappy," continued Laszlo. "There was so much of a circus here with no players (coming in]. We lost to Dundee United, lost our captain, then flew to Zagreb. I am very unhappy to play in Zagreb directly after the Dundee United game, why couldn't we play Saturday?

"It was over 30 degrees celsius in Croatia, this was not the best for this young team, especially for the power. It was very unlucky, but maybe from this we must learn more for the future. At international level, you must take these chances.

"We had chances with Michael Stewart and David Obua. The players up front played well and I tried tactically to make it different. Sometimes we had three strikers and sometimes one. Suso and Driver, two fast players, came from the back. I must compliment Stewart and Zaliukas for their performances like two captains. They had a lot of criticism from outside for red cards and attitudes. They showed they can be very important players for this club this season.

"I don't like to talk about Gordon Smith, this guy is very young. Last season he asked me for a ticket to come to the stadium. Now he is on the field playing against Dinamo Zagreb. He is not alone, Craig Thomson is another. Craig is one of the best we have from the academy. I work with these players and if we can keep this attitude I think we can qualify for the top six.

"I am a little bit sad but, on the other side, I think I can be proud about the performance. My intention was to give something back to the supporters who came to Zagreb. We lost our face in Zagreb and a lot of sympathy from the supporters. Last night we won. If we win some games in the league now we can achieve something. Don't make the mistake and think Heart of Midlothian is a fantastic team. Maybe they are going the right way, but with a young team you go up and down.

"I think we learned our lesson. Tactically we were better. In Zagreb I did not ask the players to stay behind. Our tactic, in the first 20 minutes, was to close the area and maybe get a counter-attack situation then come out. But the players told me in Zagreb that they were all very tired with the hot temperature. They always looked to go to their rooms to have the air conditioning. Afterwards some were sick. This is not an excuse but it happened."

Dinamo's arrival marked Tynecastle's first European tie since Bordeaux recorded a 2-0 victory in November 2003. However the match was in danger of postponement until 45 minutes before kick-off after a back-up generator caught fire and disabled floodlights between Tynecastle's Gorgie Road and Wheatfield stands. A gathering of UEFA delegates debated the lighting issue with German referee Knut Kircher on the field before deciding that the game should begin with three pylons operational instead of four.

An early moment of consternation saw Dimitrios Papadopoulos, unmarked on the right of the penalty area, angle a drive off the outside of Janos Balogh's right post. An exquisite touch of foot wizardry by Suso soon after took him clear of two visiting defenders on the byline and Tomislav Butina, the Dinamo goalkeeper, failed to hold his low cross. It required Igor Biscan to clear hurriedly.

The more the hosts asserted their authority, the more Dinamo wilted. Hearts' first clear chance arrived on 16 minutes, Obua's cross controlled by Glen on the turn before a rather tame finish. Seconds later Christian Nade's cross was collected by Butina, and the Croatian's erratic decision to throw the ball out instantly led to the opening goal. Milan Badelj was not exepcting to receive possession and found himself dispossessed by Stewart 25 yards from goal.

The club captain meandered forward and, before being closed down, rolled the ball insolently into the net with his left foot from around 16 yards. As the celebrations ensued, the question for Hearts surrounded the strength of their belief. They answered emphatically by continually taking the fight to Dinamo.

A three-goal deficit remained daunting but the visitors were notably unsettled, emphasised by the sight of Jurcic on the edge of his technical area screaming instructions for his players to calm down. They fashioned an opening when Papadopoulos' low cross from the right found Pedro Morales at the near post, however Balogh was sufficiently alert to produce a point-blank save. On 27 minutes, a precise attacking move saw Stewart's volley rebound off Butina's crossbar. Thomson crossed with his left foot, Obua's header across goal was nodded down by Glen and Stewart lashed the ball of the goal frame.

The half ended with what some might consider a typical Christian Nade moment. Stewart, Glen and Obua combined to release the Frenchman on the left flank. He ran forward unchallenged but miscontrolled the ball and invited an interception before the ball ricocheted off him for a goal kick. This incurred the wrath of the home support, not to mention a disgusted Laszlo in the home dugout.

"Christian Nade tried very hard," said the manager afterwards, having composed himself. "He is not a player who can go always in the free area. He tried to keep the ball. At the moment he is down. I like to protect this player and I know Christian will be back one time in the league and he can help my team. I want him to know he has a manager who will keep a hand over him."

The second half opened with more fire hazard as the raucous Dinamo support set plastic seating alight in the Roseburn Stand. On the field their side still lacked a spark, and on 55 minutes Zaliukas doubled Hearts' lead. Thomson's corner was cleared poorly by Sammir and Zaliukas hit a shot on the turn which rolled in past the surprised Butina. At 2-0, it was definitely game on.

Hearts continued to press but Dinamo showed just enough resilience to hold their aggregate advantage. From Thomson's 78th-minute free-kick, Ismael Bouzid nodded downwards at Butina when a header across goal was more advisable as maroon shirts queued in wait. Then Obua's dipping strike flew narrowly over the crossbar following Jose Goncalves' cross.

Balogh was in action during the closing stages to repel a ferocious attempt from Papadopoulos and, in stoppage time, to turn a header by Mario Mandzukic round the post. That apart, he was relatively inactive. The sight of Jurcic throwing on three defensive players for the closing stages summed up the discontent within the visiting camp.

Proceedings were rounded off with a couple of choruses of "One Csaba Laszlo" from the Hearts fans. This performance, and result, went a long way towards restoring faith.

Taken from the Scotsman

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