ROBBIE NEILSON believes Hearts must score an away goal in Tallinn next week to progress to the Europa League’s second qualifying round.
Last night’s narrow 2-1 victory over FC Infonet in the first leg of the first qualifying round leaves the tie finely balanced. The Tynecastle head coach will send his team out to kill the Estonians off next Wednesday.
Jevgeni Harin’s stunning volley put Infonet ahead on 20 minutes, but Prince Buaben’s penalty and an own goal from Andrei Kalimullin own gave Hearts the first-leg advantage.
The teams meet again in Estonia in five days and Neilson wants his side to score a potentially decisive third goal.
“We need to go there and try to score a goal,” he said. “We need to kill the game and do the things we’d spoke about trying to do. Last night, we didn’t implement what we wanted to. When we did, we caused them problems.
“It’ll be an exciting game and a tough game for us over there. They have international players and very good quality. We knew this tie would be hard. We were disappointed to lose an away goal but we managed to score two. That gives us the advantage at the moment.
“We can do it, 100 per cent. We will be another week into our pre-season by next week. We’re only 15 or 16 days in just now. It will be 23 or 24 by the second leg. The competitive edge is there now so we know what we need to do over there. The fitness levels will be there as well.”
Infonet are midway through their league season, whereas Hearts only began pre-season training two weeks ago. The Estonians looked much sharper than their hosts.
“The fitness and sharpness came into it because we didn’t move the ball quick enough. We didn’t get into the areas we wanted to often enough,” continued Neilson.
“These games are always difficult. When we saw Infonet, we looked at the CVs – they’re a good team, guys with 100 caps for Estonia. They have good players who have played at decent levels so we knew it would be tough.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t played any European football. The fitness aspect made it twice as hard. We looked rusty in the first half an hour. My concern was it was really open at the start.
“Both teams started to shut down towards the end of the game and they were probably happy with 2-1. We were desperate to score again but just couldn’t do it.
“It’s the first 90 minutes of competitive action our guys have had.
“In six days’ time they’ll be in better condition.
“I expect it to be tough out there but we’re in the driving the seat. They’ve got an away goal but they have to come out and score.
“We don’t need to score if they don’t, but if we can score the first goal it keeps us in control.”
Aleksandr Pushtov, the Infonet coach, declared himself satisfied with his team and is anticipating an intense second leg.
“We realise we can play as equals with Hearts,” he said. “The game next week will tell us all where we will be. The first match leaves some mystery behind so the next game will be the final result.
“I think we have a chance to go through because it’s only 2-1. We had the chance to win before the game and we still have a chance to win now.”