The most iconic symbol of the city of Liverpool is the Liver bird. Hearts have their very own version following their 2012 encounters with Liverpool FC. Matches at Tynecastle and Anfield in the Europa League play-off round will live long in the memory of those who witnessed them.
Having come up against Tottenham Hotspur in the same competition the previous year, Hearts were drawn in another “Battle of Britain” clash in 2012 when UEFA paired them with a fellow giant of England’s Premier League.
Liverpool’s is a club steeped in football history and at the time were managed by Brendan Rodgers, now in charge of Celtic. With Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in their team, they were hardly short on reputation or experience.
Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov attended the second leg at Anfield and was given this impressive red Liver bird as a token gesture from the Liverpool board. It is exactly like the bird which dominates the centre of the club’s official badge.
Hearts arrived on Merseyside in August 2012 carrying a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Edinburgh. Andy Webster’s own goal after 78 minutes left their chances of knocking out such a respected European opponent decidedly slim. However, under manager John McGlynn, they travelled south with a determined mindset.
A controlled and professional performance kept the scoreline at 0-0 with 85 minutes on the clock. Then, the unthinkable happened as Hearts took the lead on the night. David Templeton’s shot from the edge of the penalty area squirmed past Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal, sparking wild celebrations in the away end.
A few travelling fans spilled on to the pitch as euphoria took hold and, for a few minutes, McGlynn’s team looked to have forced the tie into extra-time. Inevitably, the hosts did enough to prevent that scenario.
Suarez drove into the Hearts penalty area with two minutes remaining and squeezed a shot in between the sliding challenge of Marius Zaliukas and goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald. The ball rolled into the net almost with a little sigh of apology following what what a valiant effort by the Scots. Nonetheless, it was not enough as they and their new Liver bird headed back to Edinburgh.
• See more great items from Hearts’ history at the club’s museum. For opening times, go to www.heartsfc.co.uk/pages/museum