SPL

Hearts hold on to beat Hibs to fourth and guarantee European qualification

By Sports Desk May 27, 2023

Ten-man Hearts held on for a 1-1 draw in a tense final-day Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle to stop Hibernian leapfrogging them into fourth place in the cinch Premiership.

The Jambos knew a point would be enough to keep their fifth-place city rivals beneath them and secure automatic European qualification next term, and they got off to the perfect start when Yutaro Oda fired them into a ninth-minute lead.

But a red card for Alex Cochrane – his third of the season – on the half hour and an equaliser from Kevin Nisbet immediately afterwards meant Hearts had to dig deep for more than an hour – including stoppage-time – to get the point they needed.

Despite Hibs failing to get the win they craved, they will join their old foes in getting a crack at the Europa Conference League as long as Celtic defeat Championship side Inverness in next weekend’s Scottish Cup final, albeit starting in an earlier qualifying round.

Hearts made two changes to the team that started Wednesday’s 2-2 draw away to Rangers as Cochrane and Barrie McKay replaced Toby Sibbick and Alan Forrest.

There was one enforced change to the Hibs team that started Wednesday’s win over Celtic as Chris Cadden replaced the injured CJ Egan-Riley.

Hearts got off to the perfect start when they took the lead in the ninth minute as Japanese forward Oda drilled home his first goal for the club from just inside the box after a long throw-in from James Hill was only partially cleared by the Hibs defence.

The hosts suffered a blow in the 17th minute when midfielder Peter Haring – who only recently returned following a lengthy concussion lay-off – was forced off after clashing heads with Cadden while trying to deal with a cross from Elie Youan. The Austrian was replaced by Orestis Kiomourtzoglou.

The game swung in Hibs’ favour just before the half hour, however, when they were awarded a penalty after Cochrane brought Cadden down as he burst into the box.

Following a VAR review, referee Don Robertson showed a red card to Cochrane – whom he had initially booked – for denying a goal-scoring opportunity but he changed the spot-kick award to a free-kick as the foul had been committed just outside the box.

This mattered little to the Hibees, however, as Nisbet, who had been preparing to take the penalty, instead drove the free-kick through the defensive wall and into Zander Clark’s bottom right corner.

The visitors’ tails were up and in the 35th minute Paul Hanlon saw a shot pushed over by Clark from the edge of the box, before Jake Doyle-Hayes’ effort from the resulting corner was deflected behind. Joe Newell then saw a 15-yard strike brilliantly tipped over by Clark from a Doyle-Hayes corner just before the break.

Hibs boss Lee Johnson, knowing his team needed a win to leapfrog their opponents, made two attacking changes for the start of the second half as Ewan Henderson and Harry McKirdy replaced Lewis Miller and James Jeggo.

The visitors went close to taking the lead in the 49th minute when Nisbet glanced a header just wide from a Cadden cross.

The Hibees’ cause was not helped by the fact they lost both Doyle-Hayes and Cadden to injury in the early stages of the second half.

Will Fish had a header from a Newell corner brilliantly saved by Clark in the 75th minute and the centre-back saw another header deflected on to the post, but for all their possession Hibs were unable to find a way through a resilient Hearts back-line, sparking jubilant full-time scenes from the home side.

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    The first matchdays of each group at Euro 2024 are now over, after the final pool got started in style on Tuesday.

    First, Turkiye and Georgia served up an unlikely classic in Dortmund, before Portugal beat Czechia 2-1 in Leipzig.

    Records were broken in each of those matches, with Arda Guler and Cristiano Ronaldo making history.

    But what other stats standout from Group F's two opening games?

    Turkiye 3-1 Georgia: Guler breaks Ronaldo record

    In Kenan Yildiz (19y 45d) and Guler (19y 114d), Turkiye became just the second nation at the European Championship to start two different teenagers in a game, after Hungary against Denmark in 1964 (Zoltan Varga and Ferenc Bene).

    And Guler, who was on the fringes at Real Madrid in 2023-24, showcased his immense potential with a superb all-round performance, capped off with a stunning, record-breaking strike.

    He is the youngest player in the tournament's history to score on their first appearance, and just the third teenager to do so, after Ronaldo for Portugal against Greece in 2004 and Ferenc Bene for Hungary against Spain in 1964.

    Indeed, Ronaldo was the previous holder of the record, having netted on his debut at Euro 2004. 

    As well as scoring, Guler also became just the third teenager on record to create as many as five chances in a single game at the European Championship finals (since 1980), along with Wayne Rooney against Croatia in 2004 (18y 241d) and Pedri against Switzerland in 2021 (18y 219d).

    Guler's screamer followed on from Mert Muldur's excellent volley, which was just his second international goal, and paved the way for substitute Kerem Akturkoglu to round out a 3-1 victory, but only after Georgia had hit the woodwork twice and seen an effort cleared off the line in what was a thrilling contest.

    Georges Mikautadze made history with his first-half equaliser, bringing up Georgia's first goal at a major tournament, in their first such appearance.

    Turkiye won a Euros opener for the first time, having lost each of their previous five such games, while they have won four of their six encounters with Georgia in all competitions (D1 L1), with this their first win in a competitive game against them since a 5-2 victory in a World Cup qualifier in March 2005.

    Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Records up for Ronaldo and Pepe

    Pepe (41y 113d) and Ronaldo (39y 134d) both started for Portugal, and in the process became the two oldest outfield players to ever appear at the Euros.

    Age truly is just a number for the gnarly Pepe, though. The defender won possession more times than any other player across matchday one (11).

    Ronaldo also became the first player to feature in as many as six different editions of the European Championship finals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2024).

    He could not get on the scoresheet to mark the occasion, though he did see a header rebound off the post before being tucked in by Diogo Jota. However, Ronaldo had strayed offside in the build-up and the would-be winner was ruled out.

     

    Portugal went behind to Lukas Provod's blistering opener, which was the 11th goal scored from outside the box at Euro 2024. That is now just one fewer than in the whole of the group stage at Euro 2020.

    That goal came after Portugal had dominated proceedings. In fact, Roberto Martinez's completed 368 passes in the first half of this match, their most in a single half of football at the European Championship finals on record (since 1980).

    However, this was the first match of Euro 2024 so far to be goalless at half-time, and that dominance counted for nothing until Nuno Mendes' header forced an own goal from 
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    The impressive Vitinha supplied the cross that was met by Mendes. Vitinha made 20 line-breaking passes against Czechia, with only Germany’s Toni Kroos (30 v Scotland) making more across the first round of group stage games.

    Francisco Conceicao proved to be Portugal's hero. He scored just 111 seconds after coming off the bench, becoming the first Portugal player to score as a substitute at the Euros  since Eder in the 2016 final against France.

  • Sagnol proud of Georgia display as Guler gifts Montella 'perfect' birthday present Sagnol proud of Georgia display as Guler gifts Montella 'perfect' birthday present

    Georgia head coach Willy Sagnol believes his players will learn from their defeat to Turkiye, but was proud of his side's performance in Dortmund.

    The 75th-ranked side in the world captured the hearts of many neutrals in their first game at Euro 2024, coming agonisingly close to snatching a memorable point late on.

    Georges Mikautadze made history by scoring Georgia's first-ever goal at a major tournament following Mert Muldur's opener, but the minnows were undone by a piece of individual brilliance by Arda Guler before Kerem Akturkoglu sealed a 3-1 win late on. 

    "I don't want to say we are happy losers today but I think we can be proud of our performance," Sagnol told reporters.

    "We have given such a nice image of the Georgian footballer but of course, we had a lot of opportunities to score, probably as much as Turkey did. But that's football.

    "I'm sure in the future, in the next months and years, Georgia won't lose this kind of game. We are in a learning process, but we want to learn in a good way."

    For Turkiye, however, they won their opening game of a European Championship finals for the first time, having lost each of their previous five. 

    And a big contributor to that was Real Madrid's Guler, whose stunning strike showcased his mercurial talent, and was something he revealed he had practised in the lead-up to the game.

    "I am just thrilled, no words to describe how I feel. I was dreaming of this goal constantly," Guler said.

    "I've been practising this particular shot recently at the end of training sessions. I'm so happy to have scored this way."

    Turkiye head coach Vincenzo Montella celebrated the triumph on his 50th birthday, and Guler was able to deliver the boss his only wish.

    "My coach had wanted a goal as a birthday present," Guler told reporters. "I hope I can continue these goals."

    Montella was equally pleased with the way his birthday had panned out, labelling the result as the perfect day as preparations turn to their game against Portugal on Saturday, who beat Czechia late on in the other Group F contest. 

    "We are just thrilled," Montella said. "It was a lot of coincidences coming together today, my 50th birthday, Eid at home, the Euro opener."

    He told reporters: "It really was the perfect day, in terms of the spirit and in terms of the best present I could get."

  • Euro 2024 social round-up: Ronaldo's rally cry as Portuguese laud it up in Leipzig and France offer Mbappe update Euro 2024 social round-up: Ronaldo's rally cry as Portuguese laud it up in Leipzig and France offer Mbappe update

    Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal claimed a late win over Czechia to get their Euro 2024 campaign up and running.

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    Ahead of becoming the first player to feature at six European Championships, Ronaldo posted a motivational message on social media.

    "Portuguese, today begins another chapter in our history," Ronaldo wrote in a caption that came with a video of some of his best moments in a Portugal shirt.

    "I fondly remember my first day with the national team, a journey full of challenges and victories. Now, I have the honor of being alongside a team of champions, full of talent and determination. With everyone’s strength and support, we turn dreams into reality. Let's, together, fight for another triumph. United, we are unstoppable. Go Portugal!"

    The rallying cry just about worked - Ronaldo didn't score, but Portugal beat Czechia 2-1 thanks to Francisco Conceicao's last-gasp winner.

    Portuguese party in Leipzig

    There were plenty of travelling Portuguese fans who made themselves right at home in Leipzig.

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    Nose job

    Mbappe will require surgery, France coach Didier Deschamps confirmed, to fix his broken nose.

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    Deschamps revealed this in a video interview posted to the official France team X account. Could Mbappe's Euro 2024 be over, or will he make it back in time to feature?

    Kante's warm welcome

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    N'Golo Kante was spectacular in his first competitive game for Les Bleus in two years, and the 33-year-old midfielder received a rapturous reception when he returned to the dressing room after the match, with the moment captured on video.

    Baller

    Turkiye and Georgia served up a thrilling encounter, and Arda Guler was one of the stars of the show.

    The Real Madrid midfielder became the youngest player to score on his Euros debut, breaking a record set by Ronaldo way back in 2004.

    He did so in stunning fashion, curling home from outside the area, and it's worth watching again and again.

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