HEARTS’ young team gained some useful experience, and the club earned some valuable income, from this low-key but entertaining friendly. Although precise figures will not be known for some time, the attendance was a couple of thousand above the figure that was said to be required for the tie to pay its way.
Gary Locke made five changes from the team that had begun the weekend win at Aberdeen, starting in goal where Mark Ridgers took over from Jamie MacDonald. Brad McKay returned in defence, Callum Tapping, Adam King and David Smith played in midfield, and the four outfield players who dropped out were Kevin McHattie, Jordan McGhee, Callum Paterson and the injured Jason Holt.
Wolfsburg fielded a much-changed line-up from the one that beat Borussia Dortmund at the weekend, with just two players being retained. But the quality of their replacements was evident from the start, as was their greater composure on the ball.
Even so, it was Hearts who had the first chance of the evening through Ryan Stevenson, the scorer of his team’s third and final goal at Pittodrie. After just three minutes, Jamie Hamill found him on the left of the box from a free-kick which the Wolfsburg defence had expected to be floated in, but Stevenson could only find the sidenetting with his shot.
With quarter of an hour played, Brad McKay decided that the friendly was being played in too amicable a fashion, and chopped down Daniel Caligiuri after being dispossessed by the same player. In a competitive match he would have been booked, but referee Brian Colvin let him off with a stern warning.
Caligiuri soon proved he had the beating of McKay for speed, and midway through the half his cutback set up a decent opportunity for Willi Evseev. But the midfielder was too deliberate with his first-time shot, and Ridgers saved easily.
Ten minutes before half-time Caligiuri, who had switched to the right wing, made inroads into the box. After beating two men he went down under a challenge from Danny Wilson, and was charitably awarded a penalty. He took it himself and reciprocated the referee’s generosity by blasting it over the bar.
Wilson was replaced for the second half by debutant Angus Beith, who played at left-back with McKay moving to centre-half. With his team well on top, Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking saw no need to make a change. The Germans should have made their dominance count within minutes of the restart when Evseev was played through, but Ridgers got down well to turn his shot round the post.
Billy King came on to join his younger brother, Adam, as Hearts looked for more creativity, but Wolfsburg’s energetic pressing made it hard for the home team to break out of their own half, never mind threaten Max Grun’s goal. Ridgers continued to be by far the busier keeper, and did well to block a Bas Dost volley with his leg.
Hearts had a couple of half-chances late in the game, notably a left-foot drive across goal by Jamie Walker that Grun saved at his near post. But Wolfsburg continued to look the more dangerous, and Evseev was close with an effort that eluded Ridgers on its way past the post.
Referee: B Colvin