Match Report: Hearts 0-1 Zurich26 August 2022
Jorge Grant was sent off for the Jambos in the second 45, with FCZ substitute Fabian Rohner’s strike ten minutes from time securing the win for the Swiss - despite an almighty effort from Robbie Neilson’s men to overturn last week’s defeat in St. Gallen
It was a radically different Hearts side that ran out under the Gorgie lights compared to the one that fell to defeat at Celtic Park the previous Sunday. No fewer than seven changes were made with the likes of Lawrence Shankland, Craig Gordon and Cammy Devlin reinstated to the team in a 4-3-3 formation.
Backed on by the most explosive atmosphere seen at Tynecastle Park in many a season, Barrie McKay was on hand to provide the first big highlights of the game. Barely a minute had registered on the referee’s clock before he slid in Liam Boyce with an audacious bit of skill – not just a perfectly weighted through ball, but the perfectly weighted through ball. Zurich ‘skipper Yanick Brecher was swiftly off his line to halt the danger before Boycie could make a proper connection.
Hearts played at a frenetic pace, constructing chances with a frenzied intensity. McKay and Forrest drove at the Swiss in waves down the channels, with the latter sending a brilliant, curled effort towards goal after sixteen minutes – prompting a fine stretching save from Zurich’s number thirteen.
Kye Rowles very nearly had the Jambos in front with 26 minutes played. A well worked corner routine from Jorge Grant found the Aussie’s head, but his explosive header forced a brilliant reaction stop from Brecher who threw himself down to clasp it into his gloves with inches to spare.
Tynecastle, by now a bubbling cauldron of hope and expectation stepped up to the plate. The spirit around the stadium was incredible. Hearts’ performance had everything; guts, passion, skill. The only thing missing as we approached the break was a goal.
Alan Forrest was a constant danger, and it was his magic feet that conjured up the best chance of the game. After a sweet passing move from Hearts, Forrest found himself with space on the edge of the box. He pulled the trigger but a sliding block from a Zurich shirt ensured FCZ went into the break to fight another half.
The second 45 began in controversial circumstances; the first significant flashpoint occurred after 54 minutes. Jorge Grant skinned his man and made his way into the box before being chopped down. Shouts for a penalty were made, but the referee provided a twist in the tale and instead produced a yellow card for simulation.
It was Grant’s second booking after a first-half yellow, and he was shown a red to reduce the Jambos to ten men. Shortly after, Peter Haring and Josh Ginnelly were introduced to the game from the bench.
Much of the second half was tight and tense, with both sides slogging it out. With ten minutes to go, Zurich substitute Fabian Rohner produced a close range to finish to poke the visitors in front, and ahead 3-1 on aggregate.
It was a real sucker punch for Hearts after such a controlled performance for large spells of the game, but we now look ahead to group stage action in the UEFA Conference League.
Hearts: Gordon, M. Smith, Kingsley (Sibbick 77’), Rowles, Cochrane, Devlin (C. Smith 83’), Grant, Forrest (Ginnelly 63’), McKay, Boyce (Haring 63’), Shankland
Subs: Stewart, Haring, GMS, Atkinson, Halliday, Neilson, Sibbick, C. Smith, Ginnelly, Pollock
Zurich: Brecher, Guerrero (Aliti 90’), Omeragic, Selnaes, Marchesano (Rohner 78’), Avdijaj (Gnonto 45’), Boranijasevic, V'Yunnik, Conde (Hornschuh 45’), Mets, Kryeziu
Subs: Kostadinovic, De Nitti, Aliti, Krasniqi, Santini, Okita, Tosin, Hornschuh, Gnonto, Rohner, Gogia, Kamberi