Robbie Neilson's pride in Hearts as manager condems Zurich missiles thrown at Craig Gordon

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has condemned missile-throwing FC Zurich fans after goalkeeper Craig Gordon was struck by an object at Tynecastle Park.

The Swiss champions won 1-0 with Fabian Rohner’s strike to progress to the Europa League groups on a 3-1 aggregate. Hearts drop into the Europa Conference League but the unseemly sight of Gordon being struck by a missile marred the second half.

“It’s disappointing. You don’t want to see that in football. We’ve had it already this season at a ground we’ve been at,” said Neilson, referencing Alex Cochrane who was hit by an object against Hibs at Easter Road earlier this month.

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“It’s something that has to be eradicated. You don’t want to see it. I don’t know what it was. If it was a coin he’d probably have caught it.”

Hearts enjoyed a dominant first half against Zurich but Jorge Grant’s red card for a second caution after the interval left them seriously disadvantaged trying to overturn the 2-1 first-leg deficit. Rohner struck with ten minutes left.

Neilson said Hearts can now drop into the Europa Conference League with pride and confidence after their performance. “It gives us massive confidence. We’ve shown we can go away from home and play well and we can play well at Tynecastle with massive intensity and put teams under massive pressure. We should have won the game but it didn’t happen,” said Neilson, who also praised the loyal Tynecastle support.

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“I’m positive because I’ve been here through the hard times, administration, demotion, playing in the Championship, no fans, promotion, top six and now we’ve dominated a European match against the Swiss champions for 60 minutes. We’ve got football until Christmas to look forward to when the Conference draw is made on Friday.

“There’s a financial crisis with the cost of living crisis but the fans keep putting their hands in their pocket to support this club. As soon as the draw is made they will be flooding the internet looking for flights and hotels. That’s what football’s about — the fans.”

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson could only rue his team's first-half chances against FC Zurich.

The game pivoted on Grant’s dismissal and Neilson felt he was unfairly treated by Belgian referee Lawrence Visser. Grant nutmegged Adrian Guerrero then fell under Karol Mets’ challenge inside the penalty box before a second yellow card was produced.

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“When I speak to our players I say to them, when you’re in the penalty area, you can’t come off your feet,” explained Neilson. “If you do, you have to make contact with the ball. He [Metz] comes off his feet.

“The striker, in my opinion, is under no obligation to get out the way. So as soon as there’s contact, it should be a penalty. The referee has seen it a different way and it’s cost us the tie.

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“I’m very proud of the players. I thought they were outstanding. I’m proud of the club. They’ve had a long journey from administration through to promotion. The whole objective of the club was to give back to the fans. There’s a lot of pride.

“For the first 60 minutes, I thought we were outstanding. We took on the Swiss champions and put them under massive pressure. The sending off changes the game. There is a disappointment, but overall pride in the players, the club, the fans and the board.”

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