Robbie Neilson today threw a protective arm around Hearts striker Osman Sow and insisted he can take and score the team’s next penalty.
Sow wasted a chance to equalise from the spot in last night’s League Cup tie against Celtic, who eventually won the match 3-0 to reach the quarter-finals. Neilson refused to blame the Swede, however.
The head coach stressed he has no problem if Sow wants to take Hearts’ next penalty kick. Sow has already scored penalties against Falkirk and Cowdenbeath in the league this season and Neilson still has full faith in the player. He sent his kick high over the Celtic crossbar in the 55th minute of last night’s match, with Celtic 1-0 ahead at that stage.
Neilson acknowledged that the tie hinged on that moment but he also offered unstinting support for Hearts’ joint-top goalscorer. “There’s no point having a go at Os because he had the guts to go up and take it. I’m sure if he takes another one, he’ll score it,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“I don’t have any issue with him at all. I’m sure, if he goes up and takes our next penalty, he will score. It’s just part of football. You can do all the tactics, team-talks and preparation you want, but the game is a lot to do with luck as well. If we get a bit of luck and score that goal, then we could get something out of the game. It wasn’t to be.”
A minute after Sow’s miss, Celtic were awarded a penalty of their own when Hearts defender Alim Ozturk fouled John Guidetti inside the area. Kris Commons scored to double Celtic’s advantage before an Adam Eckersley own goal completed the scoring.
“Every team going to Parkhead needs to defend well,” said Neilson. “You need to set yourself up so that you’re hard to break down. Then, when you do get opportunities, you need to take them. I thought we started the game really well and were the better team for the first ten or 15 minutes. Then we lost a goal. A lot of teams fold after losing a goal to Celtic. We didn’t. We kept going.
“We got an opportunity one-on-one with the keeper [when Jamie Walker hit the crossbar] and we didn’t take it. Then we started getting ourselves into the game at the start of the second half. We get a penalty and we miss it. Within a minute, Celtic get a penalty and score and it’s 2-0. It’s a different ball game then. At home, when you’re 2-0 up, everyone wants the ball. The game totally pivots on our penalty.
“At the end of the day, although you want to progress in the League Cup and do well, the priority for us is the league. We must be positive. There’s no point saying we should’ve done this or that. The league is what matters and now we prepare to play Livingston on Sunday.”