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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Martin Hannan auth-> Craig Thomson
[M Diouf 60]
2 of 004 Suso Santana 25F H

Santana goal sweet music to Jefferies

Published Date: 08 August 2010
By Martin Hannan
at Tynecastle
Hearts were good value for this deserved draw against English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers. It may only have been a friendly, but there was no lack of effort and occasionally some bite in the tackles, and Hearts must take considerable credit for their performance not least because they were playing a stronger Rovers than will face Celtic today.

Blackburn's internationalists were released for duty with their countries after yesterday's encounter at Tynecastle, and left knowing they had been in a game. As Hearts' Ian Black said: "We gave them a run for their money and created plenty chances."

Rovers' assistant manager Neil McDonald was full of praise for Hearts: "They passed the ball very well, and I liked the look of the left-winger who was lively."

That was Arvydas Novikovas, the 19-year-old Lithuanian internationalist, who was just one of Hearts' successes on the day. "It is a good exercise when you play a quality team," as manager Jim Jefferies pointed out. "They were also playing their stronger team of the weekend."

Blackburn had the better of the opening play, without ever threatening Janos Balogh's goal, but it was Hearts who almost took the lead after 13 minutes, Arvydas Novikovas firing a low shot from the edge of the box just past Mark Bunn's left post.

Balogh had to look lively in 21 minutes when he tipped a close-range effort from Morten Pedersen over the bar. The resultant corner made its way to Keith Andrews whose fierce shot was parried off the line by Jason Thomson. Blackburn enjoyed a bit of fortune after 25 minutes when a cross ricocheted off Congolese international Chris Samba straight to Bunn, but their luck ran out a minute later.

Steven Nzonzi dwelt on the ball and was surrounded by three Hearts players in an instant, Santana pouncing and lashing a 25-yard shot into the net via a slight deflection off New Zealander Ryan Nelsen, the only undefeated captain at the World Cup. The goal sparked a flurry of action, Balogh holding onto a Pederson rocket and saving well from a Samba header either side of gilt-edged chance for Craig Thomson at the other end which he somehow contrived to head wide.

The second half was punctuated with ten substitutions as is the norm in these pre-season friendlies, with Jamie McDonald being given the full 45 minutes in the hearts goal.

More significantly, Mame Diouf came on for Nick Blackman and it was he who gained Blackburn's equaliser on the hour mark.

Diouf's goal was the result of an expertly placed header by Pedersen which allowed the Senegalese internationalist, who is on loan from Manchester United, to thump an unstoppable shot low past McDonald.

Diouf could have made it two near the end of a second half which Blackburn dominated - "we gave the ball away too much," said Jefferies - and in which the best Hearts effort came late from 20-year-old Cameroonian triallist Jonathan Toto.

"He's got something," said Jefferies, "and it's up to us to try and bring it out." Jefferies also confirmed that the ink is almost dry on Stephen Elliott's contract. The Republic of Ireland internationalist should be signed in time to play against St Johnstone in next Saturday's SPL opener.

He'll be needed, as Hearts will start the SPL season without first team squad players such as Kevin Kyle, Eggert Jonsson and Andrew Driver. "We'll just have to get on with it," said Jefferies.

Hearts: Balogh (McDonald, 46), J. Thomson, Barr, Zaliukas, Wallace, Palazuelos, Santana (Stevenson, 81), C. Thomson, Elliott (Toto, 73), Black (McGowan, 69), Novikovas (Templeton, 69).

Blackburn Rovers: Bunn (Brown, 61), Jacobsen, Samba (Givet, 71), Nelsen, Olsson, Nzonzi (Linganzi, 65), Hoilett, Andrews, Blackman (Mame Diouf, 46), El Hadji Diouf, Pedersen (Morris, 68).

Taken from the Scotsman

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