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Anatoly Korobochka <-auth None auth-> Stuart Dougal
[G Barrett 87] ;[P Moutinho 89]
9 of 011 Audrius Ksanavicius 5 ;Marius Zaliukas 27 ;Andrius Velicka 58 ;Christian Nade 68 L SPL H

Hearts 4 - 2 Falkirk

From being cast as arch-villains whose skulduggery could have wrecked Scotland's Euro 2008 ambitions to being hailed as heroes by a jubilant Tartan Army.

Hearts' Lithuanian contingent have a radical plan to alter perceptions in their adopted home.

It has been just four weeks since Saulius Mikoliunas' infamous tumble at Hampden Park made him Scottish football's public enemy supreme. Now, though, Lithuania find themselves in the position to do Alex McLeish and his squad a massive favour by taking Group B points away from France when they visit Paris, a week on Wednesday.

An upset against Raymond Domenech's side would seem a fairly remote possibility, yet at least the oft-criticised Lithuanians at Tynecastle will approach the challenge in fine form. Audrius Ksanavicius, Marius Zaliukas and Andrius Velicka all netted as Hearts dismantled Falkirk before conceding two late goals.

Ksanavicius again impressed just off the main striker, breaking his scoring duck since arriving at Tynecastle. He admitted the chance to build affection in Scotland would act as additional motivation when facing France.

"We'll try to help Scotland as much as we possibly can," said Ksanavicius. "I know the great feeling that would be directed towards us from the Scottish people if we could do something against France.

"What happened with Saulius is in the past. We forgot about it the day after it happened. All the Lithuanian players here just wanted to train well and try and get good results for Hearts.

"But I was maybe a bit surprised by the reaction. It would have been interesting to see what it would have been like if it was a Scotland player involved."

Vladimir Romanov remains an absentee landlord at Tynecastle games, but his on-field representatives are starting to curry local favour. Tomas Kancelskis completed the quartet of Lithuanians in the starting line-up on Saturday and all four performed creditably as Hearts made it six wins out of seven. Their early-season traumas appear to have been cast off, with Ksanavicius announcing his intention to drive Hearts towards the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

"In every team I have played for in my career so far, in Lithuania and Latvia, that team has become champions of their domestic league," he said. "I now want to become a champion in Scotland."

There was, though, only further misery for Falkirk, who have taken just four points from their last eight games.

An alarming defensive frailty was again apparent.

Falkirk could have conceded twice before Ksanavicius thumped in a terrific cross from Laryea Kingston after five minutes. Zaliukas netted an opportunist second before half-time after a Michael Stewart free-kick was not cleared, then Velicka raced on to a Kancelskis pass and fired a shot across Tim Krul. Christian Nade, who replaced Velicka, bagged Hearts's fourth after 68 minutes following a smart turn at the edge of the area.

Bizarrely, given what had gone before, the home side found themselves in a flap in the final three minutes. Twice, offside appeals were dismissed to allow Graham Barrett and Pedro Moutinho to add a dab of respectability to the scoreline.

"We need to stick together because there is no doubt that we are in a relegation battle," said Hughes. "The expectations from last season have really hampered us."

12:01am today


Taken from the Herald

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