Match Report: Hearts 4-1 Paks SE
Hearts produced a solid display to beat Paks SE 4-1 in the Europa League 3rd Qualifying round at Tynecastle on Thursday night, advancing 5-2 on aggregate.
Two first half goals from Ryan Stevenson put the Jambos on their way, before Andrew Driver and Rudi Skacel grabbed a goal each in the second half to secure an emphatic victory.
New boss Paulo Sergio refrained from making major changes ahead of his first game in charge, but there was a welcome return to the starting line up for fit again Andrew Driver. The winger slotted into an adventurous looking line up, with Stephen Elliott and Ryan Stevenson spearheading the Jambos attack.
The visitors from Hungary were the first to register a chance, as Daniel Bode put Marian Kello to the test from 20 yards after six minutes, but the ball failed to hit the target. The boys in maroon hit back immediately, however, with Stephen Elliott coming within inches of connecting with Danny Grainger's corner kick.
Ryan Stevenson then went close in the 10th minute, connecting with Ian Black's free kick to produce a fine volley that narrowly missed the near post. He will feel aggrieved at missing the target, but it was none the less enough to raise the volume at an already boisterous Tynecastle.
The home side were then forced into making a change in the 12th minute, as the injured Stephen Elliott made way for John Sutton.
Hearts were in control at this point, but were reminded of Paks' abilities when Jozsef Magasfoldi broke free on the left hand side, his shot from a tight angle narrowly missing Kello's near post.
This appeared to inspire the boys in green, as they began to move forward in numbers. Their best chance fell in the 28th minute, when a sloppy back pass by Adrian Mrowiec was picked up by Tamis Kiss midway inside the Hearts half.
The striker bore down on goal before laying off to Laszlo Bartha inside the box. The latter fell to the ground as he attempted to round the defence, and was subsequently booked for diving by referee Robert Malek.
For large spells, however, Sergio's men were controlling possession without causing any substantial danger in the Paks box. Set pieces were proving their most potent weapon, and it duly paid off on 33 minutes. Grainger's corner from the right found Stevenson at the back post, who leapt effortlessly to head the ball over the line amidst frantic celebrations amongst the home support.
It could very well have been two just a minute later. David Templeton was fouled on the right, and Grainger's effort from the ensuing free kick grazed the side netting as the Jambos looked to put the tie to bed.
It was one way traffic for the remainder of the half as the Gorgie men continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession, and the game looked like settling down for the interval until Ryan Stevenson popped up on the stroke of the half. John Sutton weaved his way into the opposition box before laying it off to Stevenson on the left, who measured his shot before slotting the ball into the far corner from a notably tight angle.
Sergio made a half time change to his side, as Jamie Hamill replaced Marius Zaliukas at the back. He was then pulled into action almost immediately, as Daniel Bode went on a fine solo run trough the heart of the home side's retreating back line, before releasing a low shot which skipped inches wide of Kello's right post.
The Jambos, however, were not to be outdone and produced the best move of the game moments later. Ryan Stevenson received the ball on the right side of the box, before squaring it to John Sutton on eight yards. The Englishman slotted the ball into the direction of the on-rushing Andrew Driver who rattled the ball into the roof of the net to grab his side's third of the evening in the 49th minute.
It could well have been four shortly after, as Templeton raced down the right flank before cutting inside, his shot from an acute angle smashing into the side netting as Paks struggled to cope with the waves of maroon attacks.
The home side were in no mood to sit back, and continued to apply the pressure on the increasingly fragile looking Paks back four. The attacking intent was further emphasised with the introduction of Rudi Skacel in the 63rd minute, replacing goal scorer Driver who left the field to a standing ovation. The applause was duly extended to Skacel, the fan favourite having recently extended his deal with the club.
The visitors then showed a flash of attacking flair, as a stray clearance found the feet of Bartha who raced into the box only to be denied by a last ditch Eggert Jonsson tackle.
The tricky winger was on the front foot again moments later, this time dribbling his way in from the left before forcing a save from Kello at the near post. The ensuing corner was cleared, but the ball was played back into the box - falling on the head of Bode who beat the keeper only to see the ball bounce back off the upright.
The boys in green were in the ascendancy at this point, forcing a series of corners and capitalising on some sloppy passing in the Hearts midfield.
More often than not, Hearts had Kello to thank for not conceding. The Slovakian was called upon when Bode suddenly found himself clear on goal, and produced a fine stop despite the striker looking odds on to score.
The confidence of the goalkeeper spread right throughout the spine of the team, and substitute Skacel put the game beyond doubt in the 75th minute. Templeton cut inside from deep before hitting a ferocious shot from 25 yards which forced Nortbert Csernyanszky into giving a rebound. Skacel was the first to react, tapping the ball in from close range to the delight of the home fans.
The same fans were up in arms minutes later, as Ryan McGowan was denied what appeared to be a stone wall penalty after a fine diagonal run into the box. It was of little significance, however, as the boys in maroon continued to dominate proceedings.
The pace of the game dropped in the final ten minutes, but the Hungarian side managed to pull a goal back in the 88th minute. A free kick from the right was met by the head of Daniel Bode, the ball flying past Kello and into the bottom corner.
It was a worthy consolation for the hard working side, but the outcome was inevitable as Hearts continued to pass the ball around in the closing minutes before the referee brought the game to a close.
Hearts: Kello;McGowan, Zaliukas (Hamill 45), Jonsson, Grainger; Templeton, Black, Mrowiec, Driver (Skacel 62), Stevenson; Elliott (Sutton 14).Subs not used: MacDonald, Barr, Novikovas, Robinson.
Paks: Csernyanszky; Heffler, Fiola, Eger, Balo; Sifter, Sipeki, Bartha, Bode, Magasfoldi (Csehi); Kiss (Montvai).Subs not used: Pokorny, Gevay, Meszaros, Hrepka, Heffler,
Referee: Robert Malek.
Top Man: Ryan Stevenson.
Today on Hearts.TV and Official App - all the post match reaction from 4-1 victory on the night over Paks in Paulo Sergio's first match in charge.