NO SUCH thing as gently easing back into the new season as by the time this match was over an assistant manager had been dismissed to the stand, a striker dispatched for an early bath and three goals scored to keep the fans engrossed.
Hearts went sailing into the second leg of their Champions League Qualifier against Bosnian side Siroki Brijeg as they dismantled Dunfermline to head back across the Forth Road Bridge with a successful start to the second term of the Romanov era. Hearts would go on to dispose of Brijeg after a 0-0 draw away from home and this gritty performance would serve to explain why.
A goal apiece for Czech duo Roman Bednar and Michal Pospisil was the reward from their endeavours, and suggested that the suspended Edgaras Jankauskas might face a struggle to reclaim his place, particularly in light of Chilean striker Mauricio Pinilla’s arrival.
Bednar showed particular awareness to poke home the opener which came as a result of a sweeping move up the left and involved Neil McCann and also Pospisil, who slung in the perfectly measured cross. Roddy McKenzie will look upon the part he played with some regret, initially seeking to beat Pospisil to the ball and then frantically retracing his steps when he recognised his judgment had been flawed.
It summed up what had been a frustrating start to another season for Dunfermline. Already shorn of at least half-a-dozen injured first-team members, they saw another hobble off after just four minutes. Noel Whelan endured agony when he twisted his ankle in a challenge and was replaced by Andy Tod.
Bruno Aguiar’s rather odd own goal – he hooked Stephen Simmons’ header over his own shoulder while standing on the goal-line – after 62 minutes had been a deserved leveller for Dunfermline, and was the signal for things to get fiery as well as frantic.
Amid the tussles and the tantrums Freddie Daquin managed to break free and looked set to give the home side the lead. Instead, he delayed his shot, and having allowed defenders to surround him attempted what was a rather feeble cross. It proved his last involvement, with manager Jim Leishman perhaps recognising the significance of the miss.
Within minutes Hearts were ahead, and were then provided with the additional luxury of defending their lead against just ten men. The strike which won the game was lent a degree of fortune when Christophe Berra, apparently in an offside position at the far post, just failed to connect with Pospisil’s conversion of Aguiar’s rebounded free-kick.
Sol Bamba had recovered from a nervy start and felt assured enough to launch himself at the feet of Saulius Mikoliunas just outside the box.
Bamba connected with the ball with one foot, but the other of his great rangy legs swept Mikoliunas from his feet. Pospisil made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-1. After that things got crazier. Tod was sent off for a second bookable offence after a late challenge on Julien Brellier, as was the Dunfermline assistant manager Craig Robertson for his anguished claim, directed at the Hearts bench rather than the fourth official, that Brellier had conned the referee.
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Fyssas, Pressley, Brellier, Berra, Mikoliunas, Aguiar, Bednar, Pospisil, McCann