Zdenek Zlamal asked for nearly 30,000 Hearts fans to forgive him after he let slip the ball for Celtic’s second goal and with it their chances of a comeback.
“I have to say sorry to all the fans, to everyone – it was my mistake,” said the Czech goalkeeper, who was visibly upset afterwards. “Michael Smith got a little touch on the ball but it’s my goal.
“Mistakes belong to football and I tried to forget about it as soon as possible and catch everything after that.” Zlamal, who’s been outstanding since he joined Hearts, made some fine stops after that and spared his team from a proper drubbing but that was no consolation to him.
“You must forget quickly and analyse after but I repeat: it was my mistake,” added the goalkeeper. “I would have hated it to have been six or seven because of the fans. They believe in us but Celtic were the better team.”
Hearts had been in the tie until the penalty – did he think the award was correct? “Every game is penalty kicks,” he said. “I don’t know if it was or not.” He thought Hearts heads went down after that. “We are very disappointed because we thought we had a chance to be in the final.”
In the dressing room after the final whistle he apologised to his team-mates for the error. “They reply: ‘No problem, mistakes happen, that’s football’. They are good lads.”
The good thing was the team have the chance to make partial amends quickly with Hibernian coming to Tynecastle on Wednesday for the first Edinburgh derby of the season. “The next match is very important for everybody,” Zlamal said.
Asked if he thought the supporters would forgive him he added: “That’s a question for them. I don’t know what the fans will do but I love them.”
Ryan Christie had no doubts about the penalty. “It was a stonewall penalty. I’ve heard there is a bit of back and forth about it but, as far as I’m concerned, I had it. I thought I had taken the ball by him. I felt him and it was enough to put me off balance. Willie Collum was three yards away so it was hard for him not to give the decision.”
Christie rated his contribution as one of his best moments in a Celtic shirt. “I was just happy to make an impact. We are a club that wants to make finals every year. Getting on the scoresheet was nice and it was all about having a positive impact when I came on.”
He agreed this was hard to achieve when outings were limited but it was up to him to change that. “It’s the pressure you need to deal with. You need to step up to that challenge and show everybody that when you get a rare chance you have to grab it with both hands. That’s what I am looking to do from now until the end of the season.”
Christie said he tried to stay on his feet when he was clipped for the penalty and insisted the award was correct. “I felt a clip and it made me lose my balance. I tried to stay on my feet,” he continued. “It was always going to be a tough game. Hearts were well set up tactically but, with a bit of patience, we managed to find our attacking form.”