Maroon memories: Visiting Braga left humbled by heroes

Hearts 3-1 Braga 16 Sept 2004

AS the triumphant Hearts players made their way off Murrayfield, David Bowie was belting out Heroes, a fitting send-off for the Jambos who had just taken a huge stride towards the lucrative group stages of the UEFA Cup.

Bragging Braga boss Jesualdo Ferreira went into the first round, first-leg encounter confident his side were too good for the hosts. But how he underestimated the spirit and determination of Hearts. The 3-1 triumph sent the near-19,000 Jambos who descended on the home of Scottish rugby into raptures, goals from Andy Webster, Paul Hartley and Patrick Kisnorbo earning a stirring victory.

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However, Levein and his men knew that their job was only half done, with a stern examination awaiting them in the Estadio Municipal. As it was, a battling 2-2 draw in Portugal would see them through.

While the concession of the away goal to Paulo Sergio, criminally just two minutes after Hartley had blasted Hearts 2-0 ahead with a superb volley, took the edge off a superb result, the home side had achieved their primary objective – to give themselves something to defend in Portugal.

Jamie McAllister, making his first start for his new club, had two decent shooting chances in the opening seven minutes but on both occasions lacked the necessary accuracy to test Paulo Santos. Despite having been pinpointed by Braga as Hearts' main danger man, Mark de Vries was able to cause the Portuguese back line all sorts of problems with his aerial prowess.

It was on the deck, though, that he almost made a telling contribution in the 36th minute, the Dutchman being sent tumbling by Nunes just inches outside the penalty box and Phil Stamp wasting a good shooting chance by driving the free-kick straight at the defensive wall. Two minutes later and the midfielder produced a superb one-handed stop from Santos after De Vries had set him up. With Hearts dominating proceedings, the nearest the visitors came in the opening period was a shot from Jaime Junior which deflected wickedly off Webster, Craig Gordon reacting well to spare his defender's blushes.

Six minutes after the restart, the opening goal Levein had been craving duly arrived from the unexpected source of Webster. The impressive Joe Hamill set off on a trademark jinking run, whipped in a cross to De Vries whose header back was met by the former Arbroath stopper, who stooped to head home his second UEFA Cup goal after the previous season's encounter against Zeljeznicar at Tynecastle.

De Vries then presented Stamp with a chance to run in on goal but with the midfielder lacking the pace to carry him past his marker, he opted for a shot from 20 yards which rose narrowly over the bar.

There was plenty of encouragement for the home fans and with 62 minutes gone Murrayfield erupted when Neilson's cross was brilliantly volleyed home by Hartley. The Jambos joy was short-lived, however, with poor marking at a Junior free-kick allowing Sergi a free header inside the six-yard area.

The introduction of Dennis Wyness helped sway the game back towards Hearts. With 90 minutes on the clock, he came agonisingly close to finishing off a superb piece of skill when he turned inside the Braga defence and slipped the ball just wide of Santos' left-hand post. With the fans – and Levein – thinking that was their last opportunity gone, Kisnorbo popped up in injury time to control Hartley's corner and smash a shot into the back of the net, his first goal for the club.