Craig Levein urges Hearts to reach final - and reveals Uche Ikpeazu penalty arrangement ‘ripped up’
Hearts manager Craig Levein urged his team to go one step further and reach the Scottish Cup final after securing their semi-final place.
A 2-1 win over Partick Thistle in the quarter-final replay at Tynecastle Park earned the Edinburgh club a last-four meeting with John Robertson’s Inverness next month.
Levein admitted he is desperate to reach the final having been associated with Hearts for most of his adult life as player, manager and director of football.
Uche Ikpeazu’s goal and Sean Clare’s penalty helped the home side overhaul an early Scott McDonald goal for Thistle.
“Getting to a final would be superb for me, given my long, long association with the club,” said Levein. “I don’t see this as a job. I see it as a labour of love. I’m just delighted to be representing the club in this position.
“It means more to me than anything that this club should be successful. I’ll be doing my best to make that happen.
“The semi-final is a huge thing for us. Getting there is good – but the final is the thing, to be there and win the Cup. It’s a great opportunity, without being disrespectful to Inverness, a team from a lower league. We’re the favourites. We’re up against Robbo and his team will be superbly well organised and will have a go.”
Hearts are now looking at their second semi-final of the season after reaching the last four of the Betfred Cup. “It’s been a rocky road, the last four or five years, but they’ve been hugely significant in the history,” admitted Levein.
“We didn’t start particularly well and Partick took the lead. Once we settled down and scored a couple, I thought we were dominating – until that last five or ten minutes. “They sent their goalie up which is always quite exciting. We had to see it out for the last five minutes.”
Ikpeazu had a penalty-kick saved by the Thistle goalkeeper Conor Hazard in the second half with Hearts 2-1 ahead.
“He had an agreement with Austin MacPhee that if he won a penalty he’d get to take it. That agreement has been ripped up now,” laughed Levein.
“Unless the other ten players get injured, I would doubt he’ll take another.”
Thistle complained bitterly that they deserved a late penalty with Joe Cardle and Scott McDonald both going down under tackles from John Souttar and Christophe Berra respectively.
Referee Bobby Madden rejected both claims and was then confronted by an angry Gary Caldwell at full-time.
“I went and spoke to the ref. I got in trouble. I’ve never been in trouble with refs before,” said Caldwell. “I did speak to the ref calmly. He said the first one [Cardle] was no way a penalty, I’ve looked at it back - and he was right.
“The second one he saw contact but couldn’t be sure. I’ve looked it back and it’s a penalty. It’s disappointing but that’s football. Refs have a hard job to do.
“I’m just really proud of the team. They’ve stood toe-to toe with one of the best teams in the country.
“We’ve given away two soft goals but they’ve shown bravery and composure on the ball, stood up to Hearts’ physicality. I couldn’t fault them, really.”