Hearts thoroughly deserved their place in the UEFA Cup second round after beating Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-1 at Tynecastle.
A chill wind swirled around Tynecastle but all those Hearts’ fans, all 18,760 of them, were warmed by some stirring sights as they watched their boys subdue a talented Soviet team long enough to open up a handsome gap.
Dnipro might have fared better had they started to play long before the second half as it was only then that their true menace was revealed.
Hearts made several changes to the side which played in the first leg, but it was John Robertson who caused the Soviets trouble in the early moments when tension stalked the pitch.
The diminutive striker, who had missed Saturday’s game against Dundee United because of a head knock, was sharp and eager on his return. His markers towered over him and if he felt intimidated he hid it well and proceeded to do what he does best – score goals.
Bagmut pulled Robertson down and while Tosh McKinlay was preparing to take the free kick, Son and Gudimenko were busy trying to elbow McLaren and Dave McPherson respectively as they moved into Dnipro’s box. McPherson rose above such primitive ploys and met McKinlay’s cross to head in.
The foreigners were still glaring at Gudimenko, who had let the scorer escape, when Hearts surged back into the penalty area. John Colquhoun curled the ball into the middle and Ferguson’s header was dropping nicely for Robertson when he tumbled in the shadow of Gerasthenko. There was no leniency this time for the Soviet defender and the penalty was given.
Robertson got up and, from the spot, tucked the ball into the right hand corner of Gorodov’s net. Dnipro were rattled and their defenders seemed to lose composure whenever Hearts, particularly Robertson, darted towards them.
When the little one approached Begenar, the defender, stricken by fear, resorted to pushing the striker to the ground. Much had been said about Dnipro’s speed in attack and this quality was displayed for the first time late in the half when Shakhov wrong-footed Craig Levein and sped on to Sidelnikov’s long pass forcing Smith, into a smart save.
It was warning which Hearts ought to have heeded because Dnipro scored four minutes from the break. McKinlay brought down Bagmut inside the box, and Shakhov scored from the spot. Straight from kick-off, the Edinburgh side sprinted down the field and won a corner. Colquhoun sent the ball in, Alan McLaren nodded on, and Robertson finished off the move and the match by scoring his second.
Hearts: Smith, McLaren, McKinlay, Levein, Kirkwood, McPherson, Colquhoun, Wright, Robertson, I Ferguson, Bannon.