my men were starstruck

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HEARTS manager Paulo Sergio admitted his players were too respectful of Tottenham Hotspur in last night’s Europa League tie but pledged to work on improving the team’s performance level. Sergio stressed there was no need to feel embarrassed by the 5-0 scoreline and implored his squad to learn lessons from the defeat.

Goals from Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe, Jake Livermore, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon ensured next week’s second leg of the all-British Europa League play-off is a formality. Sergio lamented Hearts’ first-half display and said that handed Spurs an unassailable advantage as they led 3-0 by half-time.

“I think we respected them too much. They are men like us,” said the Portuguese. “They played as they wanted in the first half because our players were too busy watching. They had all the space and we were not pressing the ball. We will work on what happened last night, improve and give a good answer in the next match. The players understand what they did wrong in the first half. They have already started to give a different answer and I hope it continues. For me, when you try to do the right things you don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed.”

Scotland’s UEFA co-efficient will likely be damaged by Hearts’ defeat as well as Rangers’ 2-1 loss against Maribor in Slovenia, whilst Celtic drew 0-0 at home to FC Sion. Sergio admitted concern over how last night could affect the country’s European prospects.

“I think Scotland has great footballers with talent, with quality. We shouldn’t say we can’t compete,” he said. “What happened is my problem, my responsibility. I don’t want other Scottish clubs paying for what we did.”