Match Report: Istanbul 3-1 Hearts

12 March 2022

Despite a memorable Euro adventure that saw the club claim six points across Group A, our journey around the continent came to its conclusion in Istanbul – the crossroads of the world.
Sweeping changes were the order of the day for Robbie Neilson’s team in the Turkish capital. Craig Gordon, on his record-equalling European night, started between the sticks. Meanwhile, a back five was opted for; Toby Sibbick, Michael Smith and Lewis Neilson occupied the central spots whilst Alex Cochrane, and a returning Nathaniel Atkinson, took the wing-back positions.
In the middle of the park was Cammy Devlin and Connor Smith whilst Alan Forrest and Jorge Grant lined up on the flanks. Leading the line for the boys in maroon was Euan Henderson – wearing the twenty-two shirt.
Istanbul, in the hunt for the title of group winner from Pot A, went on the attack early. Some well-worked advances from midfield saw the first chance created within minutes when Stefano Okaka’s wayward shot dragged narrowly wide of Gordon’s goal.
The pressure very quickly yielded fruit as Istanbul took the lead after four minutes. Hearts conceded a corner, clearing the way for Youssouf Ndayishimiye to rise and power home a header, unmarked, into the maroon net.
Hearts struggled to break into the Istanbul box but managed to scare on the occasions in which they did. Most notable was a fantastic steered cross from Alex Cochrane into the area which caused real havoc. Euan Henderson couldn’t quite connect ball to boot, whilst Nathaniel Atkinson missed the opportunity to pounce on the loose ball.
Istanbul’s clinical ability when a chance presented itself was the home side’s most impressive trait, none clearer than when they bagged the second goal. Craig Gordon raced out to try and cut off Gurler from meeting a loose ball – but missed his man. Gurler proceeded round him, and even with Toby Sibbick waiting on the line, he rolled into the net to double the Turks’ lead.
Istanbul began the second half in much the same way they started it, but Robbie Neilson’s half-time words of wisdom appeared to have the desired effect. With the exception of Ndayishimiye steering another bullet-header narrowly wide, Hearts did well to restrict many of the Turkish side’s movements.
Subsitute Ozcan showed determined footwork to eventually fashion Istanbul’s third of the evening, staying upright under the balk of enormous pressure from the Hearts defence. After taking a few stumbles to compose himself, he promptly leathered a powerful strike past Gordon that rippled the net.

There was to be one final twist in the tale. With just minutes to go; Pollock and Shankland combined to force a save from Istanbul – Natty Atkinson pouncing to score on the rebound to make it 3-1 at the full-time whistle.
Istanbul Basaksehir: Sengezer, Ali Kadrim, Duarte, Gurler (Chouiar 72’), Aleksic, Traore (Ozcan 63’), Turuc, Ndayishimiye, Touba, Okaka (Szysz 72’), Caicara  (Ali Sahiner 42’)
Subs: Babacan, Dilmen, Ozbayraklim, Chouiar, Celik, Sysz, Ozcan, Arslantas, Ali Sahiner, Lima, Yagiz Dilek
Hearts: Gordon, Atkinson, M. Smith (Halliday 45’), Sibbick, Neilson, Cochrane, Forrest (Ginnelly 63’), C. Smith (McKay 63’), Devlin, Grant (Pollock 82’), Henderson (Shankland 63’)
Subs: Stewart, Clark, Kiomourtzoglou, Shankland, Halliday, McKay, Ginnelly, Pollock