Sunday, 31 July 2011

Heart of Midlothian 0 Dundee Utd 1

Clydesdale Bank SPL, Sunday 31 July 2011, Tynecastle

There's something about Hearts whenever they're involved in European competition - league form seems to desert them. After an impressive showing eight days ago in the SPL opener at Ibrox where they shared a 1-1 draw with champions Rangers, Hearts secured the same scoreline five days later against Paksi - a decent result in the Europa League qualifer in Hungary. Today, however, it was a different story.

Hearts were missing Andy Webster, Mehdi Taouil, Kevin Kyle, Andrew Driver, Suso Santana and Jamie Hamill but still had a decent enough team on the park to do the business against a Dundee United team without striker David Goodwillie, believed to be joining Blackburn Rovers this week. However, the Maroons looked sluggish from the start and created few chances in a disappointing 90 minutes - well, 94 minutes to account for the ridiculous time wasting tactics of the visitors.

United posted their early intention when John Rankin's free kick from the edge of the penalty box smacked off the crossbar. Hearts only decent chance of the first half fell to Stephen Elliott who had time to turn in the United six yard box but he made a hash of his shot on goal that trundled wide. Shortly afterwards, Hearts paid the price for that miss when United's Jon Daly was given the freedom of Gorgie Road to bullet home Flood's excellent delivery. Quite what Hearts defender Marius Zaliukas was doing when Daly rose unchallenged is debatable.

Hearts huffed and puffed in the second half but never looked like getting the equaliser - not even when talisman Rudi Skacel was introduced with 20 minutes left. In the end, United deserved all three points for the simple fact they used the ball much better when they had possession. Far too often Hearts resorted to playing a long ball to an out of sorts John Sutton.

European football returns to Tynecastle on Thursday night. Despite having secured an away goal, Hearts will have to up the tempo against Paksi if they want to progress.

Top man: Danny Grainger

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