El Hassnaoui hits brace in Hearts U-20s success

Soufian El Hassnaoui
Soufian El Hassnaoui
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Soufian El Hassnaoui was on target with two first-half strikes as Hearts cruised to an impressive 3-1 win in the Under-20 Development League away at Inverness.

Hearts also fielded Prince Buaben, Adam Eckersley, Brad McKay and Scott Robinson as experienced players alongside an otherwise young side.

Aaron Scott served notice of Hearts’ intentions when he had a close-range shot blocked, but it didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken, with El Hassnaoui scoring on eight minutes with a 30-yard free-kick after he was fouled.

Hearts continued to dominate proceedings and Angus Beith was next to come close on 14 minutes, but his shot was deflected onto the crossbar.

By this point, the young Jambos were playing neat one-touch football and it was no surprise when they doubled the score-line on the half-hour mark, Robbie Buchanan volleying home an Eckersley cross.

The third goal arrived just before half-time and on this occasion it was Buchanan who turned provider, setting up El Hassnaoui to net from six yards.

Sitting on a three-goal lead after the break, Hearts made a sloppy start to the second half and conceded a goal on 47 minutes, Calum Ferguson netting a Blair MacLennan right-wing cross from close range.

Hearts, however, were soon back in control and Robinson had a shot saved by Caley keeper Ryan Esson before striking a free-kick against the crossbar, while McKay headed a cross against a post.

In truth, Hearts should have at least doubled the scoreline. Alistair Roy was next to come close, but Esson came up trumps after the 17-year-old had found himself through on goal. Esson also brilliantly touched a further Robinson free-kick onto the crossbar.

Head coach Robbie Neilson watched last night’s action along with director of football Craig Levein and assistant coach Stevie Crawford and Neilson will have no doubt been impressed by Jack Ross’ side.

Hearts: Brown. L Smith (Roy 61), McKay, Buaben, Eckersley, Scott (Flanagan 69), McKirdy (I Smith 85), Robinson, Beith, Buchanan, El Hassnaoui. Unused subs: Mason, Page.