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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth GARETH LAW auth-> Mattias Gestranius
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Paksi SE 1 Hearts 1


THE build-up was about visas and border police.

But Hearts' passport to the glamour of the Europa League group stages edged closer in Hungary last night.

David Obua started despite his two-day chase for travel documents and six-hour stay at Budapest Airport breaking through red tape.

He and the rest of Jim Jefferies' side really stamped their authority on the first leg of their third-round qualifying clash.

Jamie Hamill's penalty on his competitive Hearts debut could prove so vital when the teams meet again at Tynecastle next Thursday.

If the Jambos can boss the play as much in front of their own fans as they did last night there should be no reason why a place in the final qualifying round shouldn't be theirs. Jefferies might curse the fact they didn't take more advantage, but for his first game back on the continent in 11 years - and after the drama of Obua's arrival - this was job done.

Obua might have done enough to convince Jefferies he was fit for a start after the nightmare of discovering his passport had no room for a visa just 24 hours before the Jambos were due to fly out.

It didn't earn him any sympathy from his boss when play began.

Just 11 minutes in Jefferies was out of the dugout screaming at the Ugandan to do better.

He nearly answered him in perfect fashion when the ball broke to him 25 yards out but his first-time shot flew over. Then, just before the half-hour mark, he reacted in the box to turn and shoot only to see his effort blocked.

By that time Hearts had started to impose themselves on the game with Paksi offering little up front.

By the time John Sutton had to come off for treatment to a cut above his right eye just after Obua's shot was blocked, Paksi's only chance had been when Laszlo Bartha had danced past Adrian Mrowiec and drilled wide.

Yet they took the lead moments later - through a combination of good fortune and quick thinking.

Bartha had worked an opening on the edge of the box and saw his shot blocked by Eggert Jonsson.

When the ball rebounded to Istvan Sipeki he coolly looped a shot first time over the stranded Marian Kello.

For a moment it winded Hearts like a sucker punch to the ribs while Paksi settled down as they started to stroke the ball around at the back.

But just seconds after the fourth official's board showed two minutes of injury time the Jambos were back level.

Tibor Heffler had been warned once by the ref for his manhandling at free-kicks but he clearly had not been listening.

As Ian Black floated in a free-kick the defender dragged Sutton to the deck and referee Mattias Gestranius pointed straight to the spot.

It looked a good call and Hamill had no hesitation in grabbing the ball after scoring a penalty in the friendly win over Antwerp 11 days ago.

It was the same outcome here as he smashed his shot to Norbert Csernyanszki's left and sent the 300 or so drenched Jambo fans perched high behind one goal, wild.

The half-time whistle seconds later sparked bitter boos from the tiny band of home fans who had paid less than a fiver to sit in the 15,000 capacity stadium.

Paksi boss Karoly Kis stormed up the tunnel shouting in Jefferies' direction as a plastic tumbler flew towards Gestranius as he marched off. The whistler got the same sort of reaction when he reappeared for the restart.

It was also same again as the Jambos looked comfortable in the early stages yet were nearly carved open as Paksi burst forward.

Heffler scampered towards the box but as he looked to threaten his shot was deflected out for a corner by Marius Zaliukas.

Zaliukas was soon starring at the other end as he strode out of defence on 68 minutes to start a move that ended with Hamill wondering how he'd not scored again. The Lithuanian skipper appeared down the inside left channel and saw his cross hit off winger David Templeton into Hamill's path at the back post.

His shot was well saved by Csernyanszki and when the ball dropped to Sutton he couldn't arch his back enough to direct the header down and the chance was gone.

Paksi were always a threat though and Kello was forced to save from Tamas Sifter's header then saw Gabor Vayer's free-kick fly just wide.

Sutton's lone shift up front eventually came to an end when he was replaced by Ryan Stevenson with 12 minutes left.

Templeton was subbed too after a frustrating night up against the heavy Hungarian challenges.

Stevenson wasn't to see out the game though, being carted off on a stretcher in the dying seconds after being crocked.

The Jambos held out for the draw they more than deserved.

HEARTS: Kello 6, Hamill 8, Grainger 7, Jonsson 7, Black 7, Templeton 6 (Novikovas 2), Obua 6, Sutton 7 (Stevenson 2 (Elliott 1)), McGowan 6, Zaliukas 7, Mrowiec 6. Booked: Black.

The Sun

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