Craig Levein insists Hearts will happily play Celtic at BT Murrayfield in the Betfred Cup semi-final after beating Motherwell 4-2.
The Scottish Professional Football League are considering staging one of the semis at the home of Scottish Rugby to avoid a clash. The Hearts manager stated he has no issue if it means his team making the switch away from the proposed venue, Hampden Park.
A dramatic and enthralling quarter-final at Tynecastle Park was decided in the dying minutes with two late goals by Olly Lee and Steven Naismith, ensuring Hearts progressed ahead of their Lanarkshire opponents. The Edinburgh club were then paired with Celtic in the semi-final draw, whilst Aberdeen face Rangers in the other tie. The two semi-finals are likely to take place on Sunday, October 28, since both Glasgow clubs are in Europa League action on Thursday, October 25, and therefore could not play on Saturday the 27th. However, that creates the problem of where the ties would be played.
The SPFL are looking at BT Murrayfield, given that staging both semis at Hampden on the same day would be unfeasible. With a full Premiership card the following midweek, delaying one tie until the Monday isn’t an option.
Levein stressed he is not fazed regarding the venue and stated he would happily play in Edinburgh or Glasgow. “I tried to phone Peter Lawwell but his phone was engaged,” he joked. “We will play wherever we have to play. I didn’t even know the circumstances until after the match. It won’t be a home tie for anybody so, wherever we play, we play. I’m always hopeful of silverware. You just need to look at the last two games to see we aren’t playing at our absolute best every single week. On our worst performances, the drop-off rate isn’t that much. I think we need another performance like last night if we’re going to get through in the next round. I’m not bothered about the draw, honestly. I looked at it and I thought it’s three really good teams. For me, it’s just about getting through the Motherwell game and getting to this stage. Then we can think about Hampden or wherever it’s going to be.”
Levein was effusive in his praise for Hearts and their determination to get through a gripping cup tie last night. “It was brilliant. What a game of football. I loved it,” he enthused.
“I said to the boys at half-time: ‘I wish I was playing. I wish I was involved in this’. What a great game right from the beginning. It never let up. I’m just thrilled we managed to get through.
“I think we deserved it. We missed a host of good chances. Even the way the game transpired - going behind, coming back, getting front, being pegged back - they were great character-building things for the group.
“I was really pleased with Callumn Morrison. He got cramp in his hamstring in the second half. We probably should have replaced him earlier, to be honest. He was doing so well that I always felt that, when he got the ball, he might give us an opportunity to score.
“I couldn’t be happier. After Saturday [a 0-0 draw with Livingston], we spoke about moving the ball quicker, choosing the right option in the last third and putting crosses in the box. We scored four goals but I thought we could have scored a lot more. We missed some really good chances.”
Curtis Main opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Steven MacLean equalised and Peter Haring put Hearts ahead. Ryan Bowman levelled but Lee and Naismith’s late strikes took the hosts through.
Stephen Robinson, the Motherwell manager, praised his players’ efforts and pinpointed Naismith as a class apart. “We lost to a very good side. It was a good cup tie. We scored two cracking goals away from home and you probably expect to come out with a result,” he said.
“We’ve probably punched above our weight getting to the quarter-finals. If you look at Hearts’ team, Steven Naismith is an absolute class act. He’s the difference when you need that little bit of quality. Perhaps that’s what we’re missing. What we have is hard work and endeavour and our budget dictates that’s what we do. Those boys gave me everything and I’m confident they will use this as a catalyst to go on.”