Maroon Memories: No Euro hangover for Hearts

Portuguese full back Tiago Costa made his one and only appearance for Hearts against Inverness. Pic: Kate Chandler
Portuguese full back Tiago Costa made his one and only appearance for Hearts against Inverness. Pic: Kate Chandler
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Hearts shook off their midweek Champions League exit at the hands of AEK Athens with a well-deserved victory over Inverness at Tynecastle, with no signs of a European hangover.

Hearts head coach Valdas Ivanauskas made five changes from the team that crashed out of the qualifiers to the Greeks, Tiago Costa replacing the suspended Robbie Neilson, while new boys Marius Zaliukas and Mauricio Pinilla made their full SPL debuts for the club.

Christos Karipidis took the place of the injured Christophe Berra, while Lee Wallace came in for Takis Fyssas.

Visiting boss Charlie Christie retained the strike partnership of Dennis Wyness and Graham Bayne following their 3-1 win over Dumbarton in the CIS Insurance Cup in midweek.

Hearts were eager to impress after their midweek exit in Athens, as they attempted to get back on track domestically.

It was end-to-end stuff in the opening ten minutes, and in what could have proved to be the most bizarre moment of the match, Hearts keeper Craig Gordon almost scored his first goal for the club after a clearance from his own half put Inverness keeper Mark Brown under pressure, but he managed to get there in time to tip the ball over the bar.

Ivanauskas’ men continued to enjoy the bulk of the early pressure before making an early breakthrough.

On a swift counter-attack Neil McCann supplied a tempting cross which by-passed Jamie Mole, but Pinilla eluded Darren Dods and Ross Tokely to side foot the ball into the net.

However, the Highlanders refused to lose confidence and they shocked Hearts with a well-taken equaliser on the half-hour mark.

Barry Wilson had time to cross and with the home defence static, forward Bayne took advantage to calmly head the ball beyond Gordon.

Wyness could have added a second when he escaped Karapidis in the box, but couldn’t convert a flying header after some good team-work.

Hearts quickly punished Inverness for their ill-fortune when Mole made it 2-1.

From Paul Hartley’s free-kick the young striker rose to power a header into the roof of the net beyond Brown three minutes before half-time.

The goal proved most welcome to a nervous home support.

Hearts’ confidence re-emerged and McCann, full of verve, lashed the ball against the bar with the Edinburgh club seeking to put themselves out of sight.

Ivanauskas then substituted McCann for Andy Driver and replaced Hartley with Bruno Aguiar.

And 18-year-old Driver delivered instantly with the third goal to gift Hearts three points.

The youngster showed terrific composure to lash the ball into the top of the net from a tight angle when Tokely made a mess of clearing a Saulius Mikoliunas cross.

Aguiar added number four when he slid the ball in from seven yards from man-of-the-match Mole’s assist.

The goal emphatically sealed an impressive and welcome performance for Ivanauskas.

And it was enough to extinguish the stiff Inverness challenge, as Hearts recorded their biggest-ever SPL victory over the visitors.

Hearts: Gordon, Tiago, Pressley, Karipidis, Wallace, Mikoliunas, Zaliukas, Hartley, McCann, Mole, Pinilla