Hearts in Spain: Robbie Neilson reveals reason for abandoning match against Almeria after '60-man' fight

Robbie Neilson revealed he took off his Hearts players in the first half of their friendly meeting with Almeria because he feared further injury if the game continued after a huge melee.

The flashpoint occurred in the 38th minute after Alex Cochrane and Alejandro Pozo got into it with each other. Almeria centre-back Rodrigo Ely then came sprinting over and, in the words of Neilson, ‘banjo’d’ Cochrane before all hell broke loose. Players became involved in a heated shoving match while coaches from both sides got into it as well.

Cochrane and Ely were each shown a red card but before the match could restart, Neilson instructed his team to depart the field and the referee blew for full-time. Almeria were leading 1-0 thanks to a goal from Dyego Sousa.

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“It was just totally out of control,” said the Hearts boss. “Obviously Alex has gone in and there's a tackle and then all of a sudden their centre-half comes over and banjos him. Then we've got 60 people on the pitch trying to fight with each other. It was just totally out of control and the worry was we've already a number of injuries.

“I think the referee was a bit young, to be fair. And with a 60-man melee it becomes a bit of a shambles. So our worry was that if it restarts it becomes a bit mental.

"The referee was a young guy. I dunno where they got him from. There was both sides of it but that bit was just absolutely nuts. The boy has ran from 40 yards and elbowed Alex right in the face. Then everything else kicks off.

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“A wee bit,” when asked if the language barrier added further concern with a potential lack of understanding. “At the end of the day it's a winter friendly. But I think they were taking it as if it was a Champions League final. They're trying to empty everyone and we've got 40 of their coaches on the pitch as well. If they'd went on and settled it down it would've been fine, but they're sprinting 40 yards to get to the incident and that doesn't help.

"It wasn't a great spectacle. I'm not sure if we're playing Almeria again in a friendly.”

The aftermath of the melee between the Hearts and Almeria players at the winter friendly in Spain. Picture: Craig Fowler

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Dyego Sousa scores the only goal of the match before it was abandoned. Picture: Hearts