With the Glasgow club 1-0 ahead in the second half, the Czech goalkeeper failed to hold Ryan Christie’s shot and pushed the ball out for James Forrest to score Celtic’s second goal in their 3-0 win.
Zlamal held his hands up in the Hearts dressing room at full-time and immediately spoke to the media to convey his sorrow to the near-30,000 Hearts fans who turned up at BT Murrayfield.
Although he made several impressive saves throughout the match, he remained haunted by his error. “Michael Smith touched it a little bit but it’s my mistake. I have to say sorry to all fans, to everybody, because it was my fault,” explained Zlamal. “Mistakes belong to football so I tried to forget it early and catch everything after that. It was my goal, it wasn’t good but you have to forget and move on quick, keep going. Afterwards you can analyse it but it’s my mistake. I will repeat: I have to say sorry.”
His colleagues were sympathetic and consoled the keeper as best they could after a disappointing afternoon for all in maroon. “They replied to me: ‘No problem.’ They are good lads. I’m very disappointed about the second goal but it’s football.”
Supporters are also likely to cut the Czech a bit of slack given his consistency this season. He has become a favourite in the stands since joining from Fastav Zlin during the summer and will not be pilloried for one error, even in such a major cup tie.
“That’s a question for the fans. I always try to do my best,” he said. “Everybody can make a mistake. It was very bad timing but I have to forget it. I don’t know what fans will do but I love them. They are singing ‘swing on the bar’ to me and it’s funny, but seriously I have to focus on the games and keep going.”
Celtic opened the scoring when Hearts’ Australian midfielder Oliver Bozanic was judged to have fouled Christie. Scott Sinclair scored from the spot, then came Forrest’s second and finally a third from Christie. “Every game it’s penalty kicks,” said Zlamal in reference to the number given against Hearts this season.
“I don’t know if it was or not. It’s a lottery. After the penalty our performance was a little bit down. Then of course after the second goal Celtic dominated the game.
“It was a big opportunity for us. We play in front of 60,000 fans. For me it was the biggest game in my career. I hope we forget about it as soon as possible.”
Hearts have no time to wallow in sorrow as Hibs prepare to visit Tynecastle Park for a much-anticipated Edinburgh derby in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Wednesday. “I hope we win on Wednesday and, if we do, it will be good,” continued Zlamal.
“We are very very disappointed. We thought we had a chance to be in the final. An unlucky game but we have to forget it because the next match is very important for everybody.”
The Capital clubs will resume hostilities without Hearts’ on-loan forward Steven Naismith. He was substituted with a knee injury after just eight minutes yesterday and now adds his name to a sick list including club captain Christophe Berra, his deputy John Souttar and influential striker Uche Ikpeazu.
“Of course it’s not good, Naisy is a great player. But we have other good players who are waiting for chance. Now they will have that chance,” said Zlamal.