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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Gordon Parks auth-> Peter Sippel
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UEFA CUP CRUNCH ... Hartley laments Murrayfield flop
By Gordon Parks

VICTORY in Prague never really looked on the cards for Hearts as yet another European failure was racked up by a Scottish club.

But the damage - as it always appears to be these days - was inflicted on their own doorstep. The two-goal deficit accrued at Murrayfield a fortnight ago dealt the fatal blow to the Jambos' UEFA Cup interest.

Forget the notion of Valdas Ivanauskas' side suffering a heroic elimination at the hands of Sparta. This was a story of missed opportunities and midfielder Paul Hartley admitted Hearts had given themselves too much to do with the defeat in Edinburgh.

He said: "It was a better performance from us tonight but we knew before the game we were up against it after losing at Murrayfield. We gave ourselves too much to do.

"We had the belief before the game that it could be done and even at half-time we thought we were in with a chance. But at this level you need to take the chances that are created and we didn't do that.

"Sparta are a good side and it's hard to take that we have come up short. Jamie Mole had a great chance to put us ahead just after the break but the keeper blocked his shot and he'll learn from that.


"All we can do now is concentrate on the league. We're well placed there and still have so much to look forward to this season. We made the better chances against Sparta but we are out so it's disappointing. However, everyone will have learned from it.

"We lost the tie in the home game and and it's a story of ifs and buts but there's nothing we can do about it now.

"Unfortunately, it just wasn't to be but there are plenty of positives we can take from the game. We limited their chances tonight and gained a lot of credit which was important after the poor display we turned in during the first leg."

Mole will look back at his second-half chance and wonder what would have happened had he beat Sparta keeper Jaromir Blazek rather than hit him with his effort.

But even Roman Bednar, the man who made way for the hit-kid in a surprise line-up change, wasn't putting any blame on young shoulders.

The Czech said: "It's never nice when you are not selected to start the game but I knew I had a bad game in the first leg in Edinburgh so I accepted the decision. Nobody thinks badly of Jamie as he has been brilliant and is a good young player.

"We will all learn from this. It has been my first year playing in Europe so I will take a lot from the experience as will the rest of the lads.

"Our captain Steven Pressley came into the dressing room after the game and told us all we had done well and that we should hold our heads up high and he is right.

"I am determined to show myself in the next game and score and play better so the manager can't leave me out. As a side we are disappointed to be out but we knew it would be difficult and I think we can take a lot of pride from how we played.

"Even though Sparta were dangerous in the first 30 minutes we began to push them back and created a few good chances to score but we couldn't take them."

The Gorgie side had keeper Craig Gordon to thank for keeping them in the tie during an opening spell when Sparta threatened to kill them off.

The Scotland shot-stopper said: "If we had taken some of the chances we created it could have been a different story but we didn't and we need to accept it.

"We didn't make their keeper work enough and that's why we're out. The bottom line is we lost the tie in the home leg and everyone knows that. It's now about lifting ourselves for the next game in the league.

"We will rest up and get ready for the game against Dundee United. One of the most pleasing aspects of the start we've made to the season has been the emergence of young players at the club.

"Guys such as Jamie and Lee Wallace showed in this kind of arena and at this level of football that they have big futures and I thought they handled themselves really well."

Taken from the Daily Record

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