31 October 2012
Hearts secured their slot in the league cup semi finals tonight at Tannadice by winning on 5-4 on penalties, despite being reduced to 10 men on 78 minutes when Darren Barr received a second booking. The 90 minutes had ended 1-1 with Johnny Russell cancelling out a Callum Paterson strike - both goals coming in the first half.
Visitors Hearts started the brighter and inside a minute Novikovas struck a powerful long range shot towards goal which flew a couple of feet wide. United had struggled to get into the game early on and after 20 minutes the goal Hearts probably deserved at this stage came. The Tangerines initially failed to clear their lines which allowed Ryan Stevenson to be played in on the left side of the box. A low ball across the 6 yard area was left by the United defence, allowing Calum Paterson to ghost in ahead of Daly to tap in unchallenged. The hosts didn't respond immediately to this set back and remained under pressure for a spell, with Danny Grainger testing Cierzniak with a powerful drive after finding acres of space on the left on the half hour, but the keeper did well to parry the ball for another corner. A further attempt from Taouil wasn't far away from the top corner and just as thoughts were possibly turning towards a half time regroup for United, out of the blue they were level as a Keith Watson cross was controlled and struck by Gardyne, and after his initial attempt ricocheted off a Hearts defender Johnny Russell reacted quickest to surge forward and prod the ball home from 7 yards out to take the game in at half time all square.
The home side were first to threaten early on as Gavin Gunning showed great skill on the left flank to beat his man and fire in a cross which MacDonald beat out to Stuart Armstrong at the edge of the box. Usually a reliable striker of the ball, on this occasion the youngster's miscued shot bounced wide of MacDonald's right post. The industrious midfielder again tried to test MacDonald after John Rankin had robbed Ryan McGowan of possession on the left touchline but a decent effort curled over the bar. Paterson was again the main danger to the United defence and he swivelled superbly to meet a cross and was very unlucky to see a volley bounce up off the inside of the post right into the arms of Cierzniak. Gary Mackay-Steven was introduced to a warm welcome after 66 minutes and his first involvement was to be taken out in the air by Andy Webster, resulting in a booking for the former United captain. As the game reached the stage where a goal for either team could win it, Hearts threatened with a short corner to Grainger who crossed to Darren Barr and his header skimmed wide of the post before the Hearts man was the sinner for Hearts as a late challenge on Russell in the 78th minute led to a second booking following and earlier foul on Flood. With Hearts down to 10 men the advantage was handed to the Terrors however they had Dillon to thank when Novikovas ran through on the counter attack, in the end the Irishman did extremely well to force the Tynecastle man out wide and concede only a corner. At the other end United couldn't forge any clear cut chances and as a result the game moved into extra time.
It was tough going as neither side managed any real moment which looked likely to bring a goal in the first period. United did introduce Rudi Skacel after 94 minutes and John Rankin received a caution for a foul on Paterson, and while the resulting free kick from Novikovas had power, Cierzniak was never troubled as the ball flew wide.
The second period saw the hosts set off in determined fashion, with Rankin drilling a low shot at goal which MacDonald saved. Skacel pounced on the rebound but in any case had been caught offside. Skacel tried his luck from distance in the 109th minute but the shot was never going to trouble the Hearts keeper before Hearts gave United a fright as a free kick was nodded back across goal by Paterson with Cierzniak doing well to come out and turn the ball away from danger. Hearts sub Andrew Driver then dragged a low shot well wide before United created their best chance of extra time with only 5 minutes of play left. Mackay-Steven trickery created the chance to cut the ball back from the bye line and Skacel sent his shot over the bar under pressure from a Hearts defender. It was all United in the closing minutes and for a moment it seemed Rankin had won it for the tangerines when his shot from all of 30 yards clipped the outside of the post with MacDonald looking beaten. As a result penalties were required to settle the tie.
In front of the Eddie Thompson stand, it was Grainger who stepped up first for Hearts only to crash his effort off the bar handing United the initiative. Russell blasted into the top corner for united before Cierzniak saved superbly from Sutton only for Mackay-Steven to see his kick saved and crash down off the underside of the bar to allow Webster to step up next and make it 1-1. Rankin was next to see his kick saved and when Driver then Gunning netted it was tied at 2-2. When McGowan put Hearts 3-2 up Brian McLean had to score to keep United in it and took one of the best penalties of the shoot out to do just that. Robinson, Armstrong and then Zaliukas all scored to make it 5-4 and when Sean Dillon sent his kick wide the tie was decided in favour of the visitors.
Full Time Summary: - It was a cruel way to end the match for United but after playing the last 12 minutes and then extra time with a one man advantage they will view this as a big opportunity missed. Unfortunately the performance was not what United were capable of and in all honesty the Tynecastle side deserved to progress into the Semis.
Man of the Match - He dealt with everything thrown at him during 90 minutes and extra time then went on to make a good save in the penalty shoot out. Also couldn't be blamed for the goal conceded in the first half so the award on this occasion goes to United keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak.
Referee - Calum Murray
United - Cierzniak, Watson, Dillon, Daly (McLean 106), Gunning, Flood, Ryan (Skacel 94), Rankin, Gardyne (Mackay-Steven 66), Armstrong, Russell. Subs not used - Banks, Millar.
Hearts - MacDonald, R McGowan, Webster, Zaliukas, Grainger, Stevenson (Robinson 53), Taouil (D McGowan 108), Barr, Novikovas (Driver 96), Paterson, Sutton. Subs not used - Enckelman, Smith.
Attendance - 3789