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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Richard Winton auth-> William Collum
17 of 017 Saulius Mikoliunas 8 L SPL H

Laszlo more concerned with counting points than wages

RICHARD WINTON September 22 2008


Csaba Laszlo is clearly a subscriber to the mantra about winning being not everything but the only thing. Some of the football cognoscenti might take exception to such a prosaic concern, but then those self-appointed guardians of stylistic soccer are not answerable to Vladimir Romanov.

Victories, and by extension a lofty league position, are currency for the Hungarian, whose delight with this triumph was such that he gave his side 10-out-of-10 and described it as their most important display of the campaign to date.

But wins also emit intriguing side effects. Take the news that broke before this encounter that the club had defaulted on the players' wages last week after a "technical hitch" delayed the transfer of the requisite funds from Lithuania to Tynecastle. Laszlo initially played dumb when probed on the issue, insisting his wife dealt with his accounts, but then, when asked about Saulius Mikoliunas' winning goal, deadpanned that was what the winger collected his money for. Captain Christophe Berra was equally phlegmatic. End of story.

Last season, the issue would have dominated the matchday agenda and, most likely, have rumbled on into the following week. This term, it was made light of, partially explained, and summarily dismissed before the conversation moved on.

The difference? Three points and a place in the upper echelons of the division.

Instead, the post-match discussion was dominated by what was happening on the pitch, specifically tactically after a schizophrenic display by the hosts. A distinguished first-half exhibition of high-tempo, short-passing football, capped by a suitably splendid goal, gave way to a dogged, nervy defensive operation after the break as Inverness pressed for a merited point.

Laszlo, a thrillingly animated figure, insisted the discrepancy was an intentional ploy, a sign that he now held sufficient trust in his players to adapt their approach. Indeed, the coach described an increasingly frayed performance - in which his side were hanging on - in glowing terms.

While his insistence that Inverness created no chances was a touch dubious, his point held. For all their possession and territorial advantage in the second half, the visitors created few scoring chances. Their only true opportunity was a low Roy McBain drive that Marian Kello saved well.

The goalkeeper, signed from FBK Kaunas, was an impressive performer throughout and moved centre-back Berra to unprompted praise.

"He didn't have much to do in terms of saving shots, but I think the one thing he did extremely well was he came and took any long balls and throw-ins," said the captain. "He's commanding and it takes so much pressure off the defence."

Such reassurance was key amid an increasingly anxious Tynecastle. The failure to add to the early goal - Mikoliunas running onto a cute Audrius Ksanavicius through ball to finish - and the way their side dropped ever deeper as the game progressed, discomfited the supporters, some of whom could be heard to grumble as Hearts patiently preserved possession in their own half before the interval.

Berra, as totemic as ever at the back, appreciated their frustration but insisted that successful teams don't always play pretty football.

"Sometimes you get more satisfaction from grinding out a 1-0 result than you do from winning 5-0 because you know you've put a lot of effort in and have deserved it," he said. "We didn't play our best football, but you can't play your best every week. Sometimes you just have to grind out results - look at Chelsea, they've been doing it for a few years.

"Sometimes playing at Tynecastle works against us, too, because it's such a small pitch and teams can sit in and counter-attack, which makes it tough. But we've got to get used to it and adapt to it."

Berra went on to note, in detail, certain tactical devices employed by Inverness - a sure sign of the impact Laszlo has had on an erstwhile riven squad. The main beneficiary, though, has been Michael Stewart. Perhaps Scotland's most erudite footballer, he talked recently about the need for intellectual stimuli to motivate him and praised his latest coach for offering such.

The change is manifest in his performances. Magnificent in the first half despite not having trained for most of the week, it was no coincidence Hearts faltered as he tired.

His fatigue allowed the Inverness midfield to impose themselves on the match and dominate possession after the interval, but poor delivery and a lack of guile in the final third inhibited their efforts.

They headed home without the point they deserved. Merit, though, as Laszlo would say, is nothing without three points.

Taken from the Herald

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