Football: Bettagno breaks Hearts resolve

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Heart of Midlothian. .0

Standard Liege. . . . 1

FOR SCOTLAND'S European representatives today will be a time for taking stock and facing facts. For Hearts the prognosis does not hold much promise after last night's Uefa Cup second round, first leg when old-fashioned spirit and passion proved no match for superior Belgian skill.

After falling behind to a seventh-minute goal, the Edinburgh side rolled up their sleeves and increased their efforts but never fully convinced their own supporters that they had the credentials required to break down the visitors' defence.

The memory of a stirring night against Slavia Prague in the last round drew a crowd in excess of 16,000 but they were to witness a vastly inferior performance from their favourites.

Hearts did fight hard, and they created a couple of excellent opportunities, but there was little conviction about their efforts. Before the final whistle Henry Smith, their goalkeeper, made several important saves which gives his side a chance in the second leg.

Hearts difficult task became all but impossible as early as the seventh minute when Alain Bettagno powered a near-post header past Smith from a corner. Already in that time the Belgians had shown enough skill to justify their outrageous pre-match confidence.

The response came from a John Robertson shot, which ended high and wide, and an Ian Baird effort which was cleared off the line. Gary MacKay then had a powerful shot deflected narrowly over the bar but Hearts' efforts were sadly lacking the guile and cunning required against a superbly organised defence.

The luxury of that early goal allowed the Belgians to sit back while a growing sense of unease worked itself through the terraces whenever Standard attacked.

But for Smith's heroics, Hearts would certainly be going back to Belgium with a tie all but won. Even so there will be many Hearts' fans today who would concede the fact.

Heart of Midlothian: Smith; Hogg, McKinlay, Levein (McLaren, 45), MacKay, Van de Ven, Robertson, D Ferguson (I Ferguson, 72), Baird, Snodin, Bannon.

Standard Liege: Bodart; Genaux, Vervoort, Demol, Cruz (Pister, 45), Bettagno, Hellers, Goossens, Leonard, Van Rooy, Wilmots.

Referee: G Kapl (Austria).