Hearts made a winning return to competitive action with a 2-1 victory over FC Infonet.
The Estonians took the lead through Jegveni Harin’s stunning strike, but hit back with Prince Buaben’s penalty and Andrei Kalimullin’s own goal to take a one goal lead into next week’s second leg of the Europa League 1st Qualifying Round tie.
Robbie Neilson handed competitive debuts to Faycal Rherras and Conor Sammon, while Jack Hamilton began life as the club’s no1.
Hearts saw plenty of possession in the opening stages but it was the visitors who had the game’s first chance. Harin intercepted a loose Callum Paterson pass to run through on goal, but under pressure from the right-back he hurriedly swerved wide of the target from 20-yards out.
The Jambos went immediately up the park and created a half chance of their own. Alim Ozturk burst forward, expertly taking the ball around two players before dragging his left-foot effort well wide.
Infonet were proving dangerous on the counter attack. A high ball into the box was not dealt with by John Souttar and Vladimir Voskoboinikov tried to lob Hamilton from inside the box, but failed to get any real height on it and the ball sailed into ‘keeper’s arms.
Hearts had their best chance in the 15th minute. Some great backtracking from Arnaud Djoum saw him win possession before sending Paterson clear down the right, and his ball into the box was met by Juanma, who flashed his header just wide.
Yet it was the visitors who took the lead after 20 minutes, scoring their first ever European goal in the process. A looping cross into the Hearts box found Harin unmarked and his spectacular bicycle-kick sailed into Hamilton’s top right corner.
The lead lasted six minutes with the men in maroon were awarded a penalty after Juanma’s delicate chip into the box was handled by Vladimir Avilov, and Buaben stepped up to slam the ball into goalkeeper Matvei Igonen’s bottom left corner.
35 minutes in and it was 2-1 Hearts. Jamie Walker’s deep corner was knocked back across goal by Paterson and off of the unfortunate Kalimullin and into his own net.
A stunning flying save from Hamilton denied Dmitri Kruglov, who hit a thunderbolt shot from inside the box moments later.
Rherras was first to try his luck after the restart, being fed by Walker and shooting from 25-yards out, though it was straight at Igonen.
Hamilton then did well to beat away an Aleksandr Volodin shot after Infonet were gifted possession in the box, as the game remained on a knife-edge.
The Jambos struggled to carve out many openings as the game progressed, though Ozturk went close with a 30-yard free-kick which was deflected onto the roof of the net.
Infonet passed up a great chance to level proceedings after 68 minutes. A long ball forward found Harin in the space in the box, but his curling shot was blocked behind by a last-ditch sliding tackle from Souttar.
Neither side went on to create any real opportunities, but the Jambos head into next week’s return leg in Estonia with a single goal lead.
Hearts: Hamilton, Paterson, Ozturk, Souttar, Rherras, Nicholson, Djoum, Buaben (Kitchen, 76'), Walker, Juanma (King, 64'), Sammon. Subs: Gallacher, Rossi, L.Smith, Todorov, Zanatta.
Infonet: Igonen, Kalimullin, Avilov, Appiah, Volodin, Voskoboinikov, Harin (Kulinits, 82'), Mosnikov, Kruglov, Dmitrijev, Mashichev (Haminu, 60'). Subs: Zelentsov, Vnukov, Golovijov, Domov, Rattel.
Referee: Vilhjalmur Alvar Thorarinsson
Top man: Alim Ozturk