HEARTS should have been looking forward to a trip to Madrid, with a two-goal lead late in the second half of the first leg; knowing that only a remarkable collapse would prevent them from taking the prized scalp of one of Europe’s biggest names.
Hearts 2, Atletico Madrid 1
September 14, 1993
But a split-second’s lack of concentration 13 minutes from time left the UEFA Cup future of Sandy Clark’s side balanced on a knife-edge.
It had all been Hearts in the second half as Atletico had wilted under a relentless assault in the driving rain and looked in danger of conceding more than the two goals they had surrendered in the opportunism of John Robertson and John Colquhoun.
Then, out of the blue, Hearts were Pole-axed. Roman Kosecki, the Polish international striker who replaced the ineffective Luis Garcia, collected a pass with his back to goal 30 yards out on the right touchline.
He spun and burst away from Alan McLaren in one movement, shuffled the ball from one foot to the other to get away from Gary Mackay then rifled a low, right-foot shot past Henry Smith to turn the tie on its head.
Suddenly, the last 13 minutes were an exercise in survival for Hearts, as Atletico at last showed the quality we were told they possessed. A fairly even first half ended on a high with Robertson firing in a tremendous drive which goalkeeper Diego diverted over the top. Earlier, Colquhoun squandered a chance after a surging run from Scott Leitch had sprung the offside trap.
If the two Hearts strikers were out of luck before the break, they made up for it in a blistering five-minute spell midway through the second half. Robbo, who didn’t let some appalling treatment at the hands and feet of Juan Lopez prevent him from having his best game of the season, scored the type of goal which had become his trademark, pouncing on a rebound off Diego after Justin Fashanu had shaken off his marker to head a Gary Locke cross goalwards.
Atletico were still reeling when Locke carved them open again, giving Colquhoun just enough time to control the ball on his chest and squeeze a great right-foot shot past the Spanish keeper. For two minutes, Hearts looked home and dry in the monsoon. Then Kosecki struck and there were some very dark clouds on the horizon for Hearts a fortnight later. Out in Madrid, Hearts crashed to a 3-0 defeat, to exit the competition and their fans were left wondering: “What if...”
Hearts: Smith, Locke, McKinlay, Levein, Weir, McLaren, Colquhoun, Mackay, Fashanu, Leitch, Robertson. Subs: Thomas, Johnston, Walker, Berry, Hogg.