ROBBIE NEILSON lavished praise on his Hearts history-makers after they scored four away goals in Europe for the first time to beat Estonians Infonet 6-3 on aggregate.
Hearts won 4-2 in Tallinn last night to reach the Europa League second qualifying round, where they meet Birkirkara of Malta. Two goals from Igor Rossi and one apiece by Callum Paterson and Alim Ozturk saw the Edinburgh club claim a comfortable victory.
Neilson pointed to two goals in the first nine minutes from Paterson and Rossi as the key period in the match.
“It was a great start. We knew what we had to do after playing them last week,” said the Tynecastle head coach.
“We knew we had to get deliveries into the box and we moved Callum Paterson further forward to get more of an aerial threat. I was pleased with the attitude and the gameplan – we worked on what we wanted to do and got a goal from it.
“We’ve also been working on improving Jamie Walker’s set-pieces. If he can put it into good areas like he did last night then, with guys as tall as we’ve got, we’ll get goals. It’s pleasing to score four goals and the players deserve massive credit.”
Hearts now face Birkirkara next week. “I think our performance will go up a level with another week of training and the experience of playing in Europe which can be difficult for boys,” added Neilson.
However, he insisted Infonet’s Ofosu Appiah should have been sent off for an aerial challenge which left the Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton needing multiple stitches in a head wound.
“I was disappointed with the referee’s decision after the challenge on Jack. He gets smashed and there’s no place in football for that.
“He’s had eight to ten stitches for something that should have been a second yellow card. Their player rolled around. Jack will be okay, he’s a tough boy.”
Rossi scored twice in a game for the first time in his career, and then joked that he will be playing up front against Birkirkara.
“My team-mates said I am playing striker in the next game,” laughed the Brazilian centre-back.
“Every player gave me congratulations. I enjoyed the second goal because it was in front of the Hearts fans. It was fantastic to see these fans here.
“It was a good game and I’m very happy to score two goals, but it’s more important Hearts won and got to the next round.
“This is the first time I have scored two goals so I’m very happy. It was fantastic.”
Having played in the Europa League group stages with the Portuguese club Maritimo, Rossi is looking to repeat that feat with Hearts this year.
“We can do the same. This was a hard game, their players were strong but we were fantastic.”