Sergio surprised ‘emotional’ match ended with 11 players on each side

HEARTS manager Paulo Sergio admitted he was surprised that the first Edinburgh derby of the season ended up with both teams having a full complement of players on the pitch.

Ryan Stevenson, the scorer of Hearts’ first goal in a 2-0 win, was the first man who was booked by referee Craig Thomson when he might have been red-carded, and he was followed by several Hibernian players who can count themselves fortunate to have stayed on the pitch after only being booked. Sergio accepted that the nature of the derby meant that passions ran high, but said his team’s superior ability to control their emotions was one reason they had ended up getting the better of their Edinburgh rivals.

“I don’t want to criticise referees or anybody, but maybe I see some dangerous tackles,” he said when asked if he had been surprised no-one had been sent off. “I can say okay, maybe it’s a surprise it finished 11 against 11.

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“But it’s a derby, a little bit emotional. I tried to tell my guys don’t be emotional in the game, and I think we did a great job.

“We created a lot of chances, we could have scored more goals, and I’m seeing the team working together. We won the three points and I think with a good performance, so I’m a happy man right now,” he said.

Sergio added that he regarded those three points and the impact they had on his team’s league position as more important than the fact Hearts had again got the better of their city rivals. “The three points is more important than winning a derby and it was also a good performance,” he said. “We created a few chances to score and didn’t let them play, so I feel we are working as a team and I am happy with my players.

“I think we controlled the game from beginning to end. We played at our pace and our rhythm and didn’t let them play.”

The Portuguese manager made eight changes to the line-up which had begun Thursday night’s Europa League match against Spurs, prompting queries about what he regarded as his best 11 – or indeed, whether he was any nearer to identifying it.

“I don’t think I should have an 11,” he said. “I want all the players ready to play when I need them, so it is important that you can change and keep winning. There are some things that I am not satisfied with, but I never will be; perfection doesn’t exist. In time I will want more. It is always like that.”

One thing he is satisfied with, however, is the support from the Hearts fans. The manager praised the efforts of the 2,500-plus fans who turned up to cheer on their team at White Hart Lane despite the 5-0 deficit from the first leg, and he was delighted again yesterday by the backing of the home crowd.

“Derbies are the same all over the world; it’s always a special environment,” he said. “Our supporters were fantastic. I’m not used to that.”

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Substitute Eggert Jonsson was credited with his team’s second goal just minutes after coming off the bench, but replays appeared to show that the ball had crossed the line from Andy Webster’s header before it was cleared out to the Icelandic midfielder. Nonetheless, Jonsson said that getting the goal was what counted, not who actually scored.

“I’m not sure if the ref gave it to him or me, but the most important thing is we scored a goal,” he said. “If he scored it doesn’t matter, but if I scored it does matter,” he joked. “But in the end it doesn’t matter.

“We were getting in behind them, creating a lot of good play down the wings and creating chances. We were unlucky not to score more goals, but in the end we were happy to win the first derby of the season. We’re improving every game and I’m happy to keep progressing.

“There was a lot of fighting in this game. The most important thing was to come out on top in our individual battles and for sure we did that.”