Hearts 4 Falkirk 2: Kingston adds colour to Romanov's vision

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The Independent Online

Heart of Midlothian have spent the last few days with their noses pressed against the glass as Scottish football has showcased itself to the rest of Europe. Exile must be hard to bear for these near-perennial competitors but they are taking steps to regain their place. On the day that Hibernian took over at the top of the SPL by upsetting Rangers at Ibrox, Falkirk were swept aside in style here yesterday as Hearts secured their sixth win in seven League games. Now Uefa Cup qualification is back on the radar after a wretched start to the campaign.

Hearts missed out on entry to this season's Uefa Cup when Aberdeen seized that prize on the last day. Envy at the Pittodrie club's midweek success, not to mention those of Celtic and Rangers, must have been hard to contain. Audrius Ksanavicius, Marius Zaliukas, Andrius Velicka and Christian Nade all found the net in this success to soothe that pain.

The boast of club owner Vladimir Romanov in 2006, when Hearts finished as title runners-up to qualify for the Champions' League, that his club would actually lift the European Cup within three years has been made to look foolish.

There was little doubt about the outcome of this contest from the moment Ksanavicius put Hearts in front in the fifth minute. The Lithuanian profited from a fine run by Laryea Kingston, who got inside Tom Scobbie, the left-back, and then delivered a low cross that was buried by Ksanavicius.

Kingston's collection of deft tricks was greatly appreciated and when Zaliukas doubled Hearts' lead in the 28th minute, it was the signal for Hearts to embrace free-flowing football.

Tim Krul prevented Ksanavicius from scoring just before the interval but the hosts then punished Falkirk with a ruthless counter-attack just before the hour. Eggert Jonsson robbed Russell Latapy for Tomas Kancelskis to release Velicka, who beat the offside trap and his angled finish beat Krul.

The substitute Nade, who had only been on the pitch for moments, made it 4-0 in the 68th minute, exchanging passes with Kingston and scoring with the inside of his boot.

Falkirk never stopped trying to play attractive football and hit back with two goals late on. Graham Barrett came off the bench to bury Steven Thomson's set up in the 87th minute and then Pedro Moutinho's raking shot flew past Steve Banks.

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