Hearts debrief: Devlin in Europe; Bad deflections; McKay's meg; New big screen; Technically outclassed
A look back at the talking points and takeaways from Hearts’ Europa Conference League Group A defeat by İstanbul Başakşehir at Tynecastle Park.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
The most impressive performers on the night were all in the grey shirts of Basaksehir. From a Hearts perspective, Craig Gordon came up with a couple of big saves – as he normally does. Michael Smith started well at centre-back but was part of a defence that leaked four goals, so let’s give it to Cammy Devlin. He seems to raise his game in European matches at Tynecastle after his superb performance against Zurich two weeks earlier. The Australian midfielder showed tenacity when the opportunity came to make a tackle and was brave in possession. He never stopped and had run his race by the time he was replaced by Connor Smith in the 72nd minute. It was still 2-0 at that point, which just goes to show how much he was missed. Devlin was one of the few in maroon to emerge with pass marks.
Stefano Okako’s third goal summed up the gulf between the teams and highlighted Hearts’ current run of bad fortune and frailties at the back. The powerful and experienced Italian striker held off Connor Smith and then swatted Alex Cochrane aside as if he wasn’t there to make his way into the box. It was all far too easy and Hearts should have defended it better, but the deflection his shot took off Stephen Kingsley to leave Craig Gordon helpless didn’t help. It summed up Hearts’ night, the fourth goal also taking a deflection.
Hearts knew their opponents would set up in their tried and tested 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 formation and matched them up in a 4-2-3-1. What the home team could not match was Basaksehir’s technical ability to keep ball. The Turkish visitors moved it around so quickly and slickly that Hearts were unable to get close enough and naturally found themselves dropping deeper and surrendering territory. When Hearts were in possession at the back, they were instantly put under under pressure and forced to go long to Lawrence Shankland. When Hearts began to chase the game it played straight into the Turks’ hands and quickly went from bad to worse. It was simply a case of Basaksehir having far better technical players.
YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
Barrie McKay didn’t see as much of the ball as he would have hoped, but did show in the 52nd minute that he has the ability to play at this level with a cheeky nutmeg on Omer Ali Sahiner right in front of both dugouts. The second new big screen at Tynecastle was also in place for the first time, with both team line-ups neatly displayed and regularly updated with subs, bookings and goals. It’s a nice new feature which will add to the matchday experience for fans in time but made for grim reading on the night and most Hearts supporters would surely have been looking away. The undignified minute’s silence for the Queen, cut short after being spoiled by a minority, will not have been missed, but the announcement of Her Majesty’s passing also resulted in the electric advertising boards being switched off for the second half and the post-match media conference was restricted by Uefa to two questions per manager.
Polish referee Kryzystof Jakubik handled the game well. He correctly overruled his linesman to give Hearts a throw in front of the dugouts in the first half. The booking of Ahmed Touba for sliding in and colliding with Peter Haring on he deck was the right call, as were the yellow cards for Nathaniel Atkinson – his studs were showing even though he won the ball in a slide tackle – and Connor Smith for late tackle on Danijel Aleksic. There was one strange decision in Hearts’ favour though, Andy Halliday somehow awarded a foul for slipping and taking his opponent out.
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