• 9-6-8
  • 6th in Maltese Premier League

    Heart of Midlothian 1-2 Birkirkara

    Hearts' European hopes ended with a surprise 2-1 defeat to Birkirkara on a night of frustration at Tynecastle.It looked like the Gorgie side had done the hard bit in the first leg of their Europa League second qualifying round by leaving Malta last week with a goalless draw.However, in a scrappy first 45 minutes, attacker Jamie Walker hit the bar before midfielder Prince Buaben had a weak penalty saved by visiting keeper Miroslav Kopric.In the 55th minute defender Christian Bubalovic stunned the home support when he drove the visitors ahead before Edward Herrera grabbed a second 12 minutes later to send their 56 travelling supporters wild with delight.Striker Conor Sammon reduced the deficit in the 74th minute but it turned out to be no more than a consolation with some Jambos fans booing their side off at the final whistle.The warning signs were there early for Hearts. The Maltese side started with some confidence and Gorgie keeper Jack Hamilton had to parry a whipped-in cross from Vito Plut before instantly making a point-blank save from Shaun Bajada.It became clear that a robust Birkirkara side were not going to be pushovers but in the 27th minute the hosts came close to getting the breakthrough.Callum Paterson, playing in midfield, got the break of the ball on the right-hand side and his floated cross was met by Walker whose acrobatic shot beat Kopric but crashed off the bar before it was cleared to safety.Another golden opportunity was soon presented to Hearts. A mazy run into the box by Sam Nicholson in the 34th minute ended when he was tripped by Cain Attard but Buaben's penalty was too close to the keeper who dived to his left to save.Gorgie defender Faycal Rherras guided a shot past the far post moments later before a Walker effort from wide on the left, after he had robbed Kopric who had strayed out his area, was cleared away from the line by the head of defender Emerson Marcelina.Hearts started the second half better but in the 54th minute, after the Gorgie defence had failed to clear a free-kick from Dimitrov Srdan, the ball eventually fell to Bubalovic and he hammered a shot high past Hamilton.The Tynecastle side shook themselves and rallied. Moments later, Nicholson sent a drive from the edge of the box against the crossbar before Arnaud Djoum blazed a shot high over the bar.However, in the 67th minute, it was all but over for the Edinburgh side when Herrera raced on to a pass from Plut to steer the ball through the legs of Hamilton and the home supporters vented their frustration.Sammon gave Hearts a lifeline when he headed in a Djoum cross for his first goal for the club and, although they piled forward in the closing stages, there was no way back.ends
    • 8Y
    • PA Sport

      Birkirkara 0-0 Heart of Midlothian

      Hearts skipper Alim Ozturk rattled the crossbar as the visitors went agonisingly close to securing a Europa League second qualifying round success in the searing heat of Malta. However, the Jambos will be confident of finishing the job at Tynecastle next week after dominating in their 0-0 stalemate against a limited Birkirkara side. Conor Sammon also saw a goal contentiously disallowed after just thee minutes, while Jamie Walker was a constant threat. Hearts' only regret as they touch down in Edinburgh on Friday morning will be that they failed to bring a lead back with them. Despite the signing of Viktor Noring and the temptation to utilise the experience and calm head of fit-again Don Cowie, head coach Robbie Neilson named the same side which saw off FC Infonet in Tallinn last week. Birkirkara, meanwhile, pinned their attacking hopes on Vito Plut, the gifted striker who helped dump Hibernian out of Europe in 2010 while on the books of Maribor. Mercifully for the visitors, the pitch was in shade by the time the match began at 8.30pm local time, however the temperature was still 27 degrees celsius with suffocating humidity. Hearts wasted no time in adapting to the conditions and thought they had produced a dream start. Prince Buaben bundled the ball into the box and, after a fortunate ricochet, Sammon reacted to slot home from close range. The assistant referee's flag cut the celebrations short, with the big Irishman deemed to have been offside. Walker, who racked up an astonishing four assists against FC Infonet last week, was proving a menace again and curled a drive just wide from the edge of the box. There was a major blow for the Gorgie men when the injured Perry Kitchen had to be replaced by Cowie on the half-hour mark. Nevertheless, Hearts were back on the front foot prior to half-time when Buaben delivered a tantalising cross to the back post where Walker was waiting, however the Scotland Under-21 cap saw his miscued effort trickle into the arms of Miroslav Kopric. A Ryan Scicluna shot, which rippled the side-netting, was as close as the hosts came in the first period. Igor Rossi met a Walker corner kick to force a sharp, if overblown, save from Kopric as the second half started in the same manner as the first. And Hearts were the width of the woodwork away from taking a lead back to Edinburgh when Ozturk unleashed a stunning shot from 35 yards which had Kopric beaten.
      • 8Y
      • PA Sport

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