Cole's goal is early return on Fulham's investment

Heart of Midlothian 0 - Fulham 2
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The Independent Football

What do you get for nothing these days? The true value was vividly exposed as Andy Cole ruined Michael Stewart's homecoming at Tynecastle yesterday.

What do you get for nothing these days? The true value was vividly exposed as Andy Cole ruined Michael Stewart's homecoming at Tynecastle yesterday.

The idea of free transfers not costing a penny no longer holds any currency, as these two former Manchester United team-mates proved in different ways. Fulham are picking up Cole's £60,000-a-week wages from Blackburn Rovers, and the striker made his initial repayment by netting a sublime first goal for the Londoners in the 76th minute.

Stewart was further down the food chain when Cole was at Old Trafford but last week the Scotland under-21 player chose to give up £12,000 a week for playing in the Reds' reserves for a season on loan in Edinburgh with the club he supports.

"Many people say they will play for their favourite club for nothing, but Michael has put his money where his mouth is," said the Hearts manager, Craig Levein of Stewart's self-imposed £200,000 wage cut.

This was the third time in seven days that Fulham had faced Scottish opposition in pre-season and after losing to Rangers and drawing with Partick Thistle there was a visible hunger in their play.

Zat Knight put the Premiership side ahead after four minutes when he climbed to meet a corner from one of Fulham's summer signings, Claus Jensen. The goal subdued Hearts and Fulham dominated the opening half-hour.

But Tynecastle was roused from its torpor when the home side were denied a penalty in the 32nd minute, when Ian Pearce barged down Ramon Pereira.

Pereira's fine touch was in stark contrast to his fortune. The Spaniard was denied five minutes later by the excellence of the Fulham goalkeeper Mark Crossley, who pushed his fierce shot on to the post. When Pereira did put the ball in the net, seconds before half-time, his effort was ruled out for offside.

Stewart's introduction just after the interval - "let's give a big welcome to a boy who has followed Hearts ever since he was wee", declared the announcer - offered Levein's team a more creative option in midfield and Stewart showed excellent understanding with Phil Stamp just before the hour to exchange passes outside the box and strike a right-foot shot just over the bar.

But it was Cole who showed the kind of finishing that has underwritten his own, more expensive salary over the years.

The experienced striker rolled back the years with a composed side-foot shot from the edge of the box to steer Thomas Radzinski's pass beyond the despairing dive of Hearts' substitute goalkeeper, Tepi Moilanen.

Just to rub salt into Hearts' wounds, Fulham's replacement keeper, Edwin van der Sar, saved a penalty from Steven Pressley in the final minute after Graham Weir had been brought down by Pearce.

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