Hearts 4-1 Paks (Agg: 5-2) – Match Report

 

Written by Simon Furnivall

Hungary’s presence in European competition came to an end last night as the last remaining team, Paks, suffered a heavy defeat against Hearts in the Europa League qualifiers. The tie was in the balance after the first leg in Székesfehérvár; a 1-1 draw with goals from István Sipeki and Jamie Hamill setting things up nicely for the return leg in Edinburgh.

The build up to the game had been consumed by the sacking of Jim Jefferies and his replacement by Portuguese coach, Paulo Sergio. Paks might have hoped that a change of coach just two games into the season might leave Hearts in disarray with players unsure of where they stood, but that wasn’t the case.

Paks’ game plan was clear from the start, they were happy to sit deep in defence and look to hit the home side on the break. Hearts’, for their part, were happy to play along and held a noticeably higher defensive line than usual, a fact that Sergio later admitted was the one strategic change he has made since joining the club.

Hearts controlled possession in the first twenty minutes of the game and the speed of wide players David Templeton and Andrew Driver drew Paks into some cynical fouls, one of which earned a booking for captain László Éger. It was the Hungarians who had the first real chance, however, when a series of mix-ups between Ryan McGowan, Marius Zaliukas and Marian Kello but László Bartha saw his shot from the edge of the area blocked.

Paks continued to show some danger on the break, but they gifted Hearts a stranglehold on the tie just after the half hour. From a corner on the right, left back Danny Grainger swung the ball in, and though Ryan Stevenson’s header was weak and straight at Norbert Csernyanszki, the Paks keeper let it through his grasp and into the net.

The tie was still open, however, and Sipeki had a chance to square things up on aggregate but he dragged his shot wide of the goal. In truth that was as close as Paks got to holding onto their European place, and just before half time some neat work between John Sutton and Stevenson set the latter up for his second of the night. Stevenson finished neatly from a tight angle, but once again questions had to be asked of Csernyanszki’s goalkeeping.

Two goals down at the break, Paks had to throw everything at Hearts at the start of the second half, and there were quite clearly some nerves amongst the home defence. Had the visitors got one goal back, it could have been a very different outcome, and Dániel Böde had an excellent chance just minutes after the restart, turning Adrian Mrowiec inside out before curling his shot just wide of Kello’s goal.

The tie was settled once and for all when Stevenson and Sutton set the ball up nicely for Driver and the returning winger clipped his shot in off the underside of the bar. Paks continued to create chances as Hearts’ game went flat with the game won, but it was again the hosts who were on the score sheet with quarter of an hour left. Some patient build up play left Templeton in space, and his shot from distance was spilled by Csernyanszki, straight into the path of substitute Rudi Skacel, who tucked the ball away from six yards out.

There was some consolation for the travelling band of Paks fans when, in the 89th minute, Böde found himself unmarked to meet Tibor Heffler’s free kick and guided it nicely into the corner of the net. Overall, however, it’s fair to say that Paks will be unhappy with their level of performance in Edinburgh, and ruing those chances that they let get away from them. Hearts were there to be taken advantage of, but instead it was the Hungarians who left the pitch licking their wounds.

Hearts 4-1 Paks – Youtube Highlights

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