HEARTS wrote another glorious chapter in their European history with a stunning UEFA Cup triumph over Basel.
The magnificent victory over the Swiss league leaders at the Stadion St Jakob Park saw the Gorgie outfit do what the likes of Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool and Valencia had all failed to achieve in previous years.
The home side had proved themselves formidable opposition at their imposing home but they simply had no answer to the stirring performance of John Robertson’s outfit, goals from Dennis Wyness and Robbie Neilson giving Hearts their first points in Group A and providing the team with a great chance of qualifying for the last 32 of the competition.
Robertson went into the match a novice in terms of managing in Europe but he got his tactics spot-on against the team which won the Swiss league by 13 points the previous season.
Hearts had been written off for the make-or-break encounter but Robertson promised to attack Basel and, true to his word, he fielded an adventurous line-up with Mark de Vries, Ramon Pereira, Joe Hamill and Wyness all on from the start.
Luck was something which had been in short supply for Hearts in the Group A campaign, some dreadful decisions from officials contributing to a disappointing start which saw them kick-off the clash rooted to the foot of the table with no points. Few would have denied the Jambos a slice of fortune and Lady Luck was certainly smiling on them as they broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark through Wyness.
The rejuvenated front man lashed home his first goal in Europe with a crisply-hit shot after good work from Hamill and Pereira, although the Spaniard appeared to be in a clearly offside position as he lurked in the six-yard box.
Some wayward finishing from the home side combined with brilliant goalkeeping from Craig Gordon – one save in particular from Scott Chipperfield in the second half as he somehow got down to the Australian’s diving header defying belief – saw Hearts maintain that advantage until 13 minutes from time when Cesar Andres Carignano hauled Basel level.
However, just when it looked like another hard luck story, up popped the most unlikely of heroes in the shape of Neilson, the defender blasting home his first goal for the club in the 89th minute.
Hearts could even have grabbed a further goal with Graham Weir, having replaced the exhausted De Vries late on, spurning a great chance when one on one with Pascal Zuberbuhler in stoppage time.
It was Hearts’ only points with group qualifiers Basel, Schalke and Feyenorrd all exiting in the next round.
Basel: Zuberbuhler, Zwyssig, Huggel, Sterjovski (D Degen, 71), Chipperfield, Gimenez, Kleber, Delgado (Barberis, 84), P Degen, Smiljanic, Rossi (Carignano, 63). Subs not used: Quennoz, Mandl.
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Maybury, Hamill, Stewart (MacFarlane, 70), McAllister, Wyness, Pereira (Stamp, 66), De Vries (Weir, 86). Subs not used: Moilanen, Janczyk, Sloan, Berra.