Maroon memories: Champions League place is a step closer

15/04/06 SPL'HEARTS V KILMARNOCK'TYNECASTLE - EDINBURGH'Christophe Berra dashes off to celebrate after securing victory for Hearts with a vital second goal four minutes from time.
15/04/06 SPL'HEARTS V KILMARNOCK'TYNECASTLE - EDINBURGH'Christophe Berra dashes off to celebrate after securing victory for Hearts with a vital second goal four minutes from time.
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Hearts 2-0 Kilmarnock

April 15, 2006

Hearts aided their hopes of clinching a Champions League qualification place through a second-place finish with a second-half display that bore all hallmarks of a team able to mix it with the elite.

They pummelled a resolute Kilmarnock defence for much of a frustrating first half without reward for their efforts and, under any circumstances or within a team with even a hint of fragility about them, the heads could have gone down.

However, under Valdas Ivanauskas this Hearts team seemed to grow in confidence with every passing week and they simply continued in the same vein, probing and pushing forward certain in the knowledge that the breakthrough would eventually materialise.

That it did, in the shape of another breathtaking Paul Hartley free-kick followed by a late header from Christophe Berra – his first goal for the senior squad – Hearts found themselves in a commanding position with just four matches remaining. This result ensured that Hearts would at least be playing Uefa Cup football, but that had always been merely a secondary aim for the Tynecastle side, and the fact that his players did not give up was the source of the most pleasure for the first-team coach.

Hearts passed up a golden opportunity to open their account when Bruno Aguiar caused the visitors all sort of problems down the left flank, working his way almost to the by-line before cutting the ball back for Edgaras Jankauskas only for the striker’s first-time effort to be blocked by Alan Combe. The keeper’s efforts only served to send it into the path of Roman Bednar, and you would have expected the Czech forward to slot home, but he somehow blazed the ball over the bar instead.

The same man had another chance to give Hearts the edge and again they had the ever-creative Aguiar to thank for having a hand in carving open the Killie defence.

He was in the middle of the park this time and sprayed the ball out wide left for Takis Fyssas, who in turn sent the ball spinning into the danger area, and Bednar caught it on the turn but his shot fizzed just over the crossbar. Hearts eventually got the reward their pressure deserved, though, when Rudi Skacel went down under a challenge from Frazer Wright 25 yards from goal. Hartley again offered his services and this time it was a beauty as he sent a curling free-kick into the net, leaving Combe with not a hope of reaching it high to his left.

The Jambos made sure of the points with four minutes remaining with a first goal for Berra, but it was Deividas Cesnauskis who played a starring role, jinking his way past two Killie defenders out wide on the right and drilling the ball low across Combe’s goal.

The initial shot was blocked, but that only served to delay the goal by a couple of seconds as Berra was on hand to ram past Combe from a couple of yards.