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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Alasdair Fraser auth-> Mike Tumilty
18 of 020 Bruno Aguiar 22 L SPL A

Laszlo putting foundation stones in position for a genuine European push

Alasdair Fraser
IF CSABA Laszlo really believes it will take 40 years for Hearts to rival the Old Firm, the head coach could at least be content with his team pressing their noses against that psychological glass ceiling on Saturday.

A hard-fought win in Inverness, carved by the aggression and grace of Bruno Aguiar in midfield, enabled the Tynecastle men to sneak past Dundee United into the third European berth.

You have to wonder how comfortably Laszlo's glum assessment sits with owner Vladimir Romanov, given his erstwhile cry of Champions League football soon after his arrival in 2005.

Yet the Lithuanian paymaster would be foolish to embark on any trademark meddling for the moment at least. Laszlo, for all his bewilderingly indecipherable post-match chat, is clearly communicating something in Gorgie.

Not since George Burley's time has there seemed such cohesion and genuine promise of a sustainable campaign for the Tynecastle side. Strange, then, that little of the verve of the Burley era is in evidence – Hearts look strong, solid and resolute but offer little in the way of unpredictable flair.

Caley Thistle matched them in every regard bar the increasingly elusive art of sticking the ball in the net, demonstrated memorably by Aguiar's flash of the boot for the 22nd-minute winner. The 27-year-old, who almost seems like a club stalwart among the ever-changing Tynecastle guard, later offered a keen insight into Laszlo's mentality.

"Third place is a very good position for the club to be in and we are all determined to stay there," the Portuguese playmaker admitted. "Everybody is working very hard in training and the spirit is good – the belief is there now.

"Every game has to be like a cup final now for us. That is the way I see it and that is what the manager tells us. I don't waste any time thinking about the last game or the one in two weeks' time.

"Others can talk about whether we have it in us to finish third or higher, but that is something to think about only in the future. All that matters every week is three points from the next game."

Aguiar, who joined Hearts two years ago from Benfica, admitted: "To win three times in a week is fantastic for the players. Since I've been at the club, I can't remember winning three games consecutively.

"We are a solid team now. Perhaps we don't always play fantastic football, but I would rather win than play beautifully and lose or draw. If you play good football and win, it is much better but the most important thing is taking three points."

The hosts, dealt a blow when Don Cowie pulled out the squad late with a knee injury, restored the two young strikers who finished the game against Falkirk strongly in midweek. But neither Andy Barrowman nor Adam Rooney were able to make inroads against a solid Hearts rearguard bolstered by Robbie Neilson's first game back since April.

Instead, the home side's early purpose evaporated as Ian Black sustained an early injury and Aguiar glided inside Russell Duncan before striking home with instinctive precision from close to 30 yards.

Controversy flared just before half-time. Firstly, Grant Munro had a decent shout for a penalty as he was clipped in the box by Michael Stewart. Then, moments later, both Barrowman and Rooney seemed sluggish in failing to get clean shots in before Neilson scrambled the ball of the line.

Lee Wallace's challenge then floored Rooney in the area, with referee Mike Tumilty leaving the field to a chorus of boos after ignoring loud appeals. The second half made for compelling enough viewing without providing much to trouble the goalkeepers.

As home midfielder Dougie Imrie observed, Caley Thistle's record of just one win at home from eight is a worrying trend that needs immediate action.

"It was disappointing to come away with nothing after putting so much into the second half in particular," he said.

Taken from the Scotsman

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