Hearts head to Switzerland with self-belief after squashing Tangerines - but one cause for concern

For Dundee United this will have been viewed as an opportunity to start the healing process after Thursday night’s humiliating 7-0 thrashing at the hands of AZ Alkmaar. But, about to enter the European arena themselves, Hearts set aside any sympathies and were ruthlessly cold in the way they concentrated on building their own momentum, allowing them to board the plane to Switzerland with self-belief after a 4-1 win.

Lawrence Shankland made it 1-0 to Hearts inside a minute against Dundee United.
Lawrence Shankland made it 1-0 to Hearts inside a minute against Dundee United.

They laid down a marker in the very first minute, slicing through Jack Ross’ team with ease. That gave Hearts fans their voice and left United struggling to settle. It should have also given Hearts the impetus to push on.

The fact they took their foot off the jugular, though, was an understandable cause for concern for the Gorgie manager Robbie Neilson, who knows what it takes for Scottish sides to compete in Europe, having been there and tried.

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FC Zurich may be struggling at the wrong end of the table domestically but they have pedigree, having topped the Swiss league last term. And, they are not likely to be as impotent should Hearts temporarily switch off and let standards slip on Thursday.

It had appeared that the home side were engaged and up for the task when they rattled in the opener in less than 50 seconds.

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Posing a lively threat going forward, they swept towards the United goal, with some slick interplay. Liam Boyce linked up with Cammy Devlin, who had been chosen ahead of Peter Haring for this one as Neilson starts to weigh up squad rotation, and the diminutive but energetic Aussie played in Lawrence Shankland, who finished the move.

Such is the ability and drive in the front four players, there was a suspicion that Hearts had just opened a whole new can of whoop ass. But rather than maintain the tempo and maximise the width, they showed things down by trying to play things through the more congested central area, passing up the opportunity to keep driving at their shell-shocked guests down the flanks, where the likes of Alan Forrest and Barrie McKay are capable of stoking fear in most defenders, let alone ones still struggling with their European demons.

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But while Neilson was far from thrilled with his team’s performance throughout the remainder of that opening 45 minutes, it was still sufficient to keep them ahead as Shankland and Jorge Grant tried to make things happen in a central area and the wide men, including full-backs Alex Cochrane and Michael Smith, put in some cameo appearances.

There was a distinct raising of standards in the second half. Another early goal, just three minutes from the restart, pretty much put the game beyond doubt, and there was no surprise that it was crafted on the wing as McKay then cut inside and sent a lovely strike beyond Mark Birighitti.

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The third came in the 62nd minute. Smith’s effort was parried but Grant who was first to react and open his Hearts account.

Despite Steven Fletcher getting the opportunity to slot home a penalty in the 71st minute, Hearts completed what was something of a half-hearted rout in stoppage time through sub Josh Ginnelly. But, they have more in the tank. Nielson just needs to hope they tap into it against FC Zurich.

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