Match Report: RFS 0-2 Hearts16 September 2022
A first-half penalty from Lawrence Shankland, along with a last gasp strike from Alan Forrest, wrapped up a thrilling win in Europe and secures us our first points in Group A.
Backed by a vocal travelling support in the Latvian capital, Hearts took to the field at the Skonto Stadium with a handful of changes to the side that was defeated by Istanbul at Tynecastle a week ago.
Within minutes of the game commencing, Emerson showed some deft footwork to record the first chance. He slipped his maroon markers and cracked Craig Gordon’s crossbar with an almighty thwack. The Gorgie boys, keen to show they were no pushovers on this foreign soil, retaliated in style courtesy of Josh Ginnelly’s raker from 30-yards - brutally grazing the Latvian bar on its way over.
Again, it was Gino who would go agonisingly close to netting our first Euro goal in six years; Stephen Kingsley’s well executed ball across goal landing at his feet, with our number thirty unable to apply enough power to his finish, with RFS catching a lucky break when ‘keeper Steinbors was deemed to have been fouled in the build-up.
Craig Halkett’s warmly welcomed return to the starting eleven was sadly cut short, with Lewis Neilson brought on to fill his place at the back after injury forced a premature exit from the field.
Gino, by now enjoying the better of his man down the right side, turned on the afterburners to devasting efficacy – leaving his man for dead and whipping a marvellous ball across the face of goal. Andy Halliday leaped to meet it, but the power wasn’t there and it proved to be light work for the Latvian stopper. Half an hour gone on the clock.
RFS were enjoying long spells with the ball, but the Jambos made every effort to make their spells in possession worthwhile. A lovely bit of persistence from Alex Cochrane was rewarded with a threaded ball across to Andy Halliday. He had a prime shooting position, but again, a lack of power behind his strike was to keep the scoresheets blank for the time being.
With just three minutes to go until the half’s end; Hearts soon had the breakthrough goal. An RFS handball cleared the way for Lawrence Shankland to smash home a superb penalty into the top right corner. It wouldn’t be a Euro tie without some Craig Gordon magic though, Scotland’s number one producing two fine stops to shut RFS out heading into the break.
Supporters keenly observed the first half was much reminiscent of a basketball match; the second half was to be much of the same as the game raged on at a breathless pace. Cochrane and Gino worked the wide channels to good effect – with the latter seeing his pacey cross narrowly evade the tip of Shankland’s boot in the middle.
RFS kept chapping on the door, but to little avail, as Ilic’s powerful, yet poorly placed header screamed past Gordon’s post. Shankland was next to have a pop in 75 minutes after another good delivery from Gino. Shanks was to take one touch too many, and it was another case of bread and butter for Steinbors in goal.
The last say would go to Alan Forrest though, who drove home a brilliant strike in the final seconds of the game to wrap up the win.
RFS: Steinbors, Emerson, Ilic, Stuglis, Saric, Mares, Panic, Lipuscek, Vlalukin (Sorokins 58’), Simkovic (Friesenbichier 58’), Jagodinskis
Subs: Cerniauskas, Nerugals, Sorokins, Maksimenko, Rakels, Varslavans, Friesenbichier, Dubra, Zaleiko
Hearts: Gordon, Cochrane, Halkett, Kingsley, Halliday, M. Smith, Devlin, Grant (Haring 69’), Ginnelly (Humphrys 77’), McKay, Shankland (Forrest 78’)
Subs: Stewart, Clark, Haring, Mackay-Steven, Atkinson, Forrest, Neilson, Sibbick, Henderson, C. Smith, Humphrys, Pollock
Referee: Mr. Aleksandar Stavrev