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Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> Knut Kircher
7 of 008 Michael Stewart 17 ;Marius Zaliukas 55 E H

Gallant Hearts raise morale with fightback

Heart of Midlothian crashed out of the Europa League play-offs but restored their battered pride with a storming performance at Tynecastle. Roared on by a passionate, near capacity crowd in Edinburgh for the first time in continental competition in nearly six years, Michael Stewart, the captain, sparked dreams of overturning the 4-0 first-leg deficit with an opening goal in the sixteenth minute.

The midfield player then struck the crossbar as Csaba Laszlo’s outfit made a mockery of Dynamo Zagreb’s dominant display last week. When Marius Zaliukas, the defender, hooked in the second shortly after the break, belief that they were capable of a sensational result coursed through the home ranks. However, the tie, and the club’s chance of reaching the lucrative group stages was ultimately lost in the horribly below-par performance in Croatia.

The game survived a pre-match scare when a fire caused by one of the back-up electricity generators blew one set of floodlights at the Gorgie Road end of the ground. However, Knut Kircher, the German referee, ruled that the tie could go ahead minus one set of lights.

Having been told that he cannot sign the striker he so desperately wants, Laszlo gave Christian Nade and Gary Glen the opportunity to impress, but it was the return from suspension of Zaliukas and Stewart from Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Rangers that brought the goals.

Hearts sought the explosive start they needed right from kick-off and after three long throws from José Gonçalves down the left, David Obua’s miskicked his shot when well placed. Zagreb should have taken the lead on the night moments later, only for Dimitrios Papadopoulos, the Greece international, to whistle his shot inches wide from the right side of the box.

A wonderful piece of skill by Suso Santana, the Hearts winger, along the byline in the eleventh minute failed to bring its rewards, despite Tomislav Butina’s nervous fumble of the Spaniard’s cross as Hearts continued to press. Six minutes later, Glen got a clear sight of goal from Obua’s driven pass but the youngster’s first touch let him down and he could not get a clean shot away.

However, Stewart ignited the match by getting the early goal that Hearts craved. The Scotland international robbed Milan Badelj 40 yards from goal and burst past Ivica Vrdoljak before slotting past Butina.

The Croatian champions attempted to cancel out Hearts’ advantage immediately but Janos Balogh was equal to Marijo Mandzukic’s shot from Papadopoulos’s cutback.

Stewart almost got a dream second in the 28th minute as the woodwork denied Hearts. Craig Thomson’s deep cross was knocked back in by Obua and into the path of Stewart by Glen, but the skipper’s hooked volley took a slight deflection before rebounding back off the crossbar.

Hearts were temporarily down to ten men at the start of the second period after Zaliukas took a kick to his face and suffered a cut mouth. However, the Lithuanian was able to continue and hauled the capital side even closer to a dramatic comeback in the 55th minute.

Thomson’s corner was only half-cleared to the edge of the box and Zaliukas hooked the ball back through a crowded goalmouth and past Butina. Immediately, Papadopoulos should have taken the wind out of Hearts but shot over from the edge of the box and Badelj’s drive went the same way.

Hearts had claims for a penalty waved away in the 68th minute when Santana went down in the box.

Taken from

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