Hearts bowed out of the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying stage this evening, going down 4-0 (6-1 on aggregate) to PAOK in Thessaloniki.
Two first half goals from Taison and Brandon, followed by further strikes from Konstantelias and Taison in the second, was enough to floor the Jambos, who now turn their attentions to the domestic campaign.
The opening ten minutes saw little in the way of goalmouth action, albeit Toby Sibbick was called upon to make a heroic tackle to break the force of a PAOK counter-attack after the Greeks mercilessly turned the ball over from Liam Boyce’s
PAOK caused the first real scare of the game with 12 minutes on the clock; skipper Vierinha cracking Zander Clark’s crossbar from distance with a drilled effort. The ball floated down back into play, with William Ekong’s attempted follow up going wayward.
The home side kept on the pressure and claimed the lead after 16 minutes. Taison presided over the free-kick on the edge of the Hearts box, with his low effort creeping into the bottom right corner. There were suggestions of offside, but no VAR check occurred.
The second of the night arrived after 22 minutes. The ball fell favourably to Brandon inside the Hearts box, with the forward executing an overhead kick to lift the ball past Clark and double the lead.
HALF-TIME: PAOK 2-0 HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN
There was a tweak in formation at half-time: with Kye Rowles, Toby Sibbick, Frankie Kent, Stephen Kingsley and Nathaniel Atkinson forming a new back five, with Boyce, Vargas and Shankland making up the forward line.
Hearts kept plugging away. A lofted ball to Boyce at the back post was headed down to Vargas who laid off to an incoming Alex Cochrane – with the Englishman’s first-time strike sailing over the bar.
The third goal for PAOK came as the clock hit 57 minutes. Some deft footwork from Konstantelias at the near post allowed him to turn the ball past Clark to make it 3-0 to PAOK, and 5-1 on aggregate.
Goal number four for the Greeks arrived on 71 minutes. A through-ball to Taison was gobbled up by the PAOK man, allowing him to drive into the box and slide the ball under Clark to end the game as a contest.
All eyes now turn to Motherwell’s visit to Tynecastle on Sunday.
PAOK: Kotarski, Koulierakis, Tsingaras (Ozdoev 63’), Konstantelias, Taison (Murg 75’), Zivkovic (Vrakas 81’), Ekong, Vierinha (Kedziora 63’), Baba, Schwab, Brandon (Tzimas 75’)
Subs: Zivkovic, Nasberg, Murg, Kedziora, Lyratzis, Ozdoev, Vrakas, Samatta, Giaxis, Soares, Tzimas
Hearts: Clark, Kent, Kingsley (Denholm 65’), Shankland (Lowry 65’), Boyce (Tagawa 59’), Atkinson (Offiah 81’), Devlin (Halliday 81’), Rowles, Cochrane, Sibbick, Vargas
Subs: McGovern, Stone, Oda, Halliday, Forrest, Denholm, Tait, Offiah, Tagawa, Sandilands, Lowry