Paksi SE 1- 1 Hearts: Vital away goal puts Hearts in driving seat
Jim Jefferies maintained his impressive record of just one defeat away from home in Europe as Hearts manager, leaving Paksi to face a big crowd in Edinburgh next Thursday requiring to score to remain in this Europa League qualifying tie. On a mild night in Szkesfehrvr, Istvan Sipeki opened the scoring for Paksi with an impromptu lob over Marian Kello from distance. Hearts equalised on the stroke of the interval when John Sutton fell in the penalty area under pressure from Tibor Heffler. The Hungarians protested vehemently against the award of a penalty but Hamill retained his composure to stroke the ball high into the net.
The result ensures Hearts are firm favourites to progress to the play-off round of the Europa League. However, Paksi's feats against Tromso in the previous round act as a caution for anyone prepared to dismiss Karoly Kis's side after only one leg. Paksi drew 1-1 with the Norwegians at home before a resounding 3-0 triumph in Norway in the second leg. Whilst mindful of that, Jefferies will also be aware that a raucous Tynecastle crowd can overwhelm any opponent.
David Obua, who only touched down in Budapest 24 hours before kick-off, started the match in the attacking midfield berth from which he scored against Rangers. Hearts manager Jim Jefferies gambled on the Ugandan despite him failing to train at all in Hungary because passport and visa problems delayed his arrival from the UK.
On a wide open pitch, it was the visitors who moved the ball around most intelligently. Rain throughout the day left a slick surface which Hearts utilised to to their advantage. Paksi are participating in their first ever European campaign and already have four Europa League qualifying ties behind them, eliminating both Santa Coloma and Tromso over two legs prior to this encounter. David Templeton, similarly, was keen to test his marker Heffler one-on-one whenever possible. Paksi attacked more through the centre and on eight minutes Bartha Laszlo evaded Adrian Mrowiec's challenge to sprint forward but dragged his shot wide. Obua and Templeton both drove speculative efforts high and wide, and in between Jamie Hamill's 30-yard attempt nestled safely in the arms of the Paksi goalkeeper Norbert Csernynszki. The pressure was evidence of Hearts' growing confidence.
However, they somehow found themselves behind against the run of play. Sutton departed momentarily with a cut on the head following an accidental collision with Paksi's Jozsef Magasfldi. As he returned to the fray, Ian Black was forced off for treatment and Paksi capitalised. Laszlo roamed inside into Black's defensive midfield area to release a shot which Eggert Jonsson blocked. The ball rebounded to Sipeki, who cleverly lobbed Kello from around 25 yards with his right foot.Just as Hearts looked to be facing a half-time deficit, they were awarded a penalty. Heffler had been warned by referee Mattias Gestranius about man-handling Sutton at set-pieces and, when the striker fell during jostling for another Grainger free-kick, the Finnish official pointed to the spot and cautioned the Hungarian. Hamill confidently dispatched the ball high into the rigging and trotted off to take the acclaim from his team-mates as Paksi protested over the validity of the award. The away goal settled the visitors, who might have struck again had someone attacked Templeton's vicious cross early in the second period. They had captain Marius Zaliukas to thank for a crucial block on Heffler's 57th minute effort, though, with Paksi seeking to reclaim the lead by hitting on the break. The Lithuanian then helped create the game's best opening on 68 minutes, only for Sutton to shoot wide under pressure after Csernynszki saved low to his right from Hamill.
With the game approaching its closing stages Tamas Sifter's back-post header from Gabor Vayer's corner required Kello's instinctive reactions to stop the ball.
Then Vayer unleashed a dipping free-kick which the goalkeeper watched fly narrowly past his right post. Ryan Stevenson and Arvydas Novikovas were introduced to bring fresh energy to the Hearts attack, although Stevesnon was to be stretchered off in stoppage time after being injured in a sliding tackle.
The hosts, who seemed to tire during the final ten minutes, were largely restricted to long-range attempts due to the high line being held by Zaliukas and company. Their diligence and concentration ultimately paid dividends. By full-time, those in maroon knew they had an extremely useful scoreline to take home, where they will fully intend to finish this tie.
Paksi: Csernynszki; T Heffler, Sifter, Fiola, Bl; Bode, Sipeki; B Laszlo, Magasfldi (Montvai 66), Vayer; Kiss. Subs: Pokorni, Nagy, Gevay, Meszaros, Hrepka, Szabo.
Hearts: Kello; McGowan, Jonsson, Zaliukas, Grainger; Mrowiec, Black; Hamill, Obua, Templeton (Novikovas 82); Sutton (Stevenson 79 (S Elliott 90)). Subs: MacDonald, Barr, G Smith, Robinson.