Former Hearts boss reckons Zurich defeat was 'missed opportunity' as ex-player makes second-leg prediction

Craig Levein reckons Hearts’ 2-1 defeat to FC Zurich in the first leg of their Europa League play-off was a “missed opportunity”.

Lawrence Shankland put the visitors in front on 22 minutes with a penalty but goals from Adria Guerrero and Blerim Dzemaili gave Franco Foda’s men a one-goal advantage to take to Tynecastle.

Levein, who previously worked with Robbie Neilson as his manager and then director of football, believes his old protege should have went for the jugular after Hearts opened the scoring due to Zurich’s poor start to the season.

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“If Hearts had gone for Zurich at 1-0... they're not in good form and they're vulnerable. I feel there was a missed opportunity there,” he told BBC Scotland’s Sportsound coverage. “Tynecastle will be rocking next week but they'll have to play with more confidence.”

Blerim Dzemaili celebrates putting Zurich 2-1 up against Hearts in the Europa League play-off. Picture: AP

Neilson changed formation in the second period in a bid to bring Hearts level, withdrawing Jorge Grant and Peter Haring, replacing them with Alan Forrest and Liam Boyce and going 4-4-2.

On BBC Scotland’s live televised coverage of the game, St Johnstone defender Ryan McGowan – who won the 2012 Scottish Cup with Hearts – believes it’s a system Neilson will stick with for the match next Thursday. He also felt the first-half loss of Craig Halkett to injury was crucial.

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“I think those two Zurich goals possibly don't happen with Halkett on the pitch. He's a big, big miss for Hearts,” the Australian said.

"Alan Forrest coming made such a massive difference for Hearts. Neilson will be much happier with the second half. I think they’ll go to a back four in the second leg.”

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