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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth auth-> Brian Winter
[S Saunders 42] ;[J Sutton 45]
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Hearts 0 - 2 Motherwell: Advantage Well in race for Europe

Published Date: 24 April 2010
Motherwell - Saunders 42, Sutton 45

HEARTS' European aspirations sustained a serious blow as Motherwell left Edinburgh with all three points in the chase for Europa League places. Two goals in quick succession at the end of the first half killed the match as a contest, leaving Hearts to monitor results elsewhere after falling seven points behind their Lanarkshire opponents.

The damage was done via set-pieces on 42 and 45 minutes as first Steven Saunders and then John Sutton capitalised on Motherwell's impressive first-half attacking play. Saunders struck during a goalmouth scramble following a corner, while Sutton glanced Tom Hateley's free-kick beyond Jamie MacDonald seconds before the interval.

Although not to be discounted entirely from the European race, Hearts must now look to win at Easter Road next weekend to maintain a realistic chance of qualifying for continental competition.

Manager Jim Jefferies reinstated midfielder Michael Stewart, winger David Templeton and striker Gary Glen for this fixture, although interestingly Marius Zaliukas retained the skipper's armband despite Stewart being club captain. That perhaps denoted how events are expected to transpire this summer with the Scot's contract expiring in June. The hosts began purposefully against a Motherwell side still without influential goalkeeper John Ruddy through injury, Michael Fraser continuing to deputise.

The visitors threatened first, however, when Steven Jennings' deflected drive posed MacDonald problems. The goalkeeper repelled the effort with both palms and on nine minutes another opportunity presented itself by dint of Craig Thomson's erratic backward pass. Lucas Jutkiewicz fastened on to the loose ball sprinting in behind the Hearts defence, and his low drive was pushed clear by MacDonald.

Seconds later, Templeton outmanouevred two defenders with a sublime portion of skill and dispatched a right-footed shot from 20 yards which Hyslop saved but could not hold. David Obua teed up Gary Glen from the rebound, but his attempt was high.

Motherwell began taking command of what was, at that stage, an extremely open and entertaining encounter. Their passing was crisp and effective and Giles Coke's 14th-minute attempt at goal forced a vital save by MacDonald low to his right. Hearts' response involved an incisive driving run and shot from Lee Wallace which was only halted by an offside decision against Obua.

The tempo slowed slightly through towards half-time, although it was evident that Hearts were enjoying considerable success when Templeton confronted Saunders one-on-one down the left side. Just when it seemed the interval would arrive without a goal, Motherwell scored. Not once but twice.

Saunders ventured forward for Steven Hammell's corner, won the initial header and then prodded the ball over the goal line following a scramble in the Hearts six-yard box. That sucker blow was followed by another minutes later, again following a set-piece. Hateley's swinging free-kick from the left was met by the head of Sutton for a textbook headed goal.

The ineffective Stewart found himself replaced by Ian Black at the interval, while Glen made way for Calum Elliot. Jefferies was attempting to reinvigorate his side, although they may have fallen three goals behind on the hour mark had to not been for a glaring refereeing error by Brian Winter. Marius Zaliukas' attempted clearance struck Jim O'Brien on the head but the winger found himself penalised for hand ball as he confronted MacDonald one-on-one. Zaliukas could only heave a sigh of relief.

MacDonald did likewise when Craig Thomson's clearance ricocheted off the Motherwell substitute Jamie Murphy for the goalkeeper to parry at point-blank range. Despite monopolising possession during the second period, Hearts could not breach their guests' resistance. Fraser held attempts by Stevenson and Craig Thomson, and Zaliukas blocked a tame effort from Murphy on the goal line during the closing stages, but Motherwell held out for a victory which injects real life into their own European ambitions.

Hearts (4-4-2): MacDonald; C Thomson, Bouzid, Zaliukas, Wallace; Suso, Stewart, Palazuelos, Templeton; Glen, Obua. Subs: Lyness, Black 46 (for Stewart), Kingston, Stevenson 54 (for Obua), J Thomson, Elliot 46 (for Glen), Robinson.

Motherwell: (4-4-2): Fraser; Saunders, Craigan, Reynolds, Hammell; O'Brien, Hateley, Jennings, Coke; Jutkiewicz, Sutton. Subs: Hyslop, Humphrey 77 (for O'Brien), Forbes 86 (for Hateley), McGlinchey, Murphy 63 (for Jutkiewicz), McHugh, Quinn.

Referee: Brian Winter.

Attendance: 13,447.

Taken from the Scotsman

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