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Sparta guilty of ‘crude physical attacks’, insists Romanov

ROB ROBERTSON in Prague September 28 2006

Vladimir Romanov, the Hearts owner, was at the centre of a fresh controversy last night after he accused Sparta Prague of using "crude physical attacks" on his players during the first leg of their UEFA Cup first-round tie at Murrayfield two weeks ago.

The Lithuanian multi-millionaire's comments, made as he flew in to Prague for the second leg, has increased the bad feeling between the teams ahead of tonight's match.
At stake is a place in the UEFA Cup group stages, for which Romanov hopes his team can still qualify, despite trailing 2-0 from the home leg.

Romanov has called on tonight's referee, Peter Sippel of Germany, to be strong and not to tolerate what he perceived as illegal tackling by the Czechs during the tie at Murrayfield.
"In the first leg, there were a lot of crude, physical attacks against our players," said Romanov. "It was a highly professional referee in the first leg but, even so, he did not spot some of those attacks. I hope Sparta don't have a chance to use the same tactics this time."

Not surprisingly, Romanov's criticism of the Sparta players did not go down well with their manager, Michal Bilek. He seemed surprised when told of the Hearts owner's comments and felt they were unfair and did not take into account how well his side had played.
"Hearts are a tough team and, as we wanted to beat them in Scotland, we knew we had to be as tough as them," said Bilek. "Going there for the first leg, one of our aims was to be as physical as them. I thought we did well and were tough but fair.
"If anything, Hearts maybe underestimated us, but we will not do the same with them. Tonight, at home, we are hoping to score an early goal to make the tie secure."

The Herald understands that, regardless of tonight's result, the position of Valdas Ivanauskas, the Hearts coach, is secure. Romanov has made it clear he will not be making public statements on the matter but it is understood that the club owner has been delighted at the way the players' reacted after the first-leg defeat. They've since recorded three straight away wins.
He has told friends that Ivanauskas is under no pressure and he is pleased at the way that he has coached the side.
That statement will surprise many but will cheer Hearts supporters who have been concerned at the number of managerial changes since Romanov took over.

Taken from the Herald

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