Hearts 0-1 Liverpool: Late own goal scuppers Hearts
HEARTS had quite openly acknowledged that their aim was to ensure the tie remained alive ahead of the trip to Anfield next week. On the evidence of a pulsating night of European football at Tynecastle, this ambition might be claimed to have been too meagre. They should have earned victory. Somehow, however, they lost.
Hearts are still left with hope but they will rue their failure to take an advantage to Merseyside. In the end, John McGlynn’s side were forced to fathom how on earth they can be trailing at the half-way point in the tie. Andy Webster experienced a sickening moment after 77 minutes when his attempt to clear a Martin Kelly cross saw the ball land in the back of his own net.
The goal came against the run of play and was certainly out-of-keeping with an excellent performance from the home side. Even having endured this blow Hearts re-grouped and created opportunities to level the game. Substitute Andrew Driver could not quite get enough power into his effort with minutes remaining, much to Pepe Reina’s relief.
The Liverpool goalkeeper was, however, forced to exhibit his exceptional talent when saving at full length to deny Callum Paterson in injury time.
The full-back had been one of several candidates for man of the match from the home side against visitors, who, although under-strength, could still not have expected to be pinned back for as long as they were.
Steven Gerrard was one of many established first-teamers missing. However, manager Brendan Rodgers might be persuaded to recall his top performers after this difficult night in Edinburgh.
If anything, Hearts succeeded in muscling out Liverpool in an opening half when they more than held their own against such distinguished opponents.
Ryan McGowan dumped Raheem Sterling on the turf in the opening minutes. Indeed, the Hearts player, who reverted to full-back last night after beginning the season as an auxiliary striker, towered over Sterling, and he was not the only one in the Hearts side to have this advantage over their opposite man.
The contrast in the physical make-up of the competing teams was not so apparent as it had been a year ago, when Tottenham Hotspur visited Tynecastle and won by five goals.
The Hearts fans urged David Templeton to run at Liverpool although it was Arvydas Novikovas who very nearly opened the scoring after only 14 minutes with a shot which moved in a vicious manner towards Pepe Reina’s top right hand corner. The Spanish ‘keeper was relieved to be able to claw it away for a corner.
After dealing with a low Charlie Adam effort, which he touched round the post, Jamie MacDonald was surprising underemployed. He could enjoy the show for the most part as Hearts settled admirably quickly. Sutton shot past the post and then Templeton tried his luck with a shot which whistled just over the bar. It was breathless stuff.
Although Liverpool had fielded a shadow side, it was still one able to feature a principal attacker worth £10.5 million in Fabio Borini. Andy Carroll was left out of the match day squad on account of a hamstring stain although few resisted the chance to link his absence to Newcastle’s desire to re-sign the striker and have him available for their own Europa League adventures.
Even were he to stay at Anfield, there is no guarantee Carroll can relish the thought of European football. Hearts were doing everything in their power to keep their own hopes of reaching the group stages of the Europa League alive. Templeton was showing why Brendan Rodgers had tracked him when he was manager at Swansea.
Hearts then appealed loudly for a penalty after the ball struck Jamie Carragher in what many thought had been the arm area. The Liverpool skipper quickly indicated it had been his midriff.
But then Hearts had their own let-off on the stroke of half-time. A poor cross-field pass from Mehdi Taouil was picked up by Sterling from the toes of Andy Webster, and when he squared to Borini, the majority of those inside Tynecastle held their breath. However, the post came to Hearts’ rescue and the ball rebounded with great force into play again.
One wondered how the second half could possibly hope to live up to an exceptionally absorbing opening 45 minutes, but the intensity levels were maintained in the stands and on the pitch. Novikovas powered in a shot that only just cleared Reina’s bar while Adam, at the other end, almost made the home side pay for handing the midfielder time to shoot.
With his every touch being jeered, Adam received the Ian Black treatment here. He relished the opportunity to direct the play again in the Liverpool midfield. However, he and his team-mates were being restricted to simply containing the home team.
Novikovas then flashed a header past the post, and while not everyone will not associate Stewart Downing with the ability to change a match, he was clearly sent on by Rodgers in an attempt to resuscitate Liverpool’s hopes of earning a victory.
Liverpool, though, delved into the past to rescue something of their old majesty. A determination to salvage something of worth from an otherwise disappointing evening saw Martin Kelly whip a low cross into the box with 13 minutes remaining. The ball should not have ended up in the back of the net but somehow it did, rebounding off Webster’s knee as the defender misdirected his attempt to clear.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West