Frankie McAvoy is adamant Hearts are capable of turning around their Europa Conference League play-off against PAOK in Greece next week despite suffering a frustrating 2-1 first-leg defeat at Tynecastle.

Lawrence Shankland’s early penalty gave the Jambos a lead but it was swiftly cancelled out by a spot-kick from Stefan Schwab.

Shankland then had a goal ruled out for offside following a VAR check before a 75th-minute strike against the run of the play from Andrija Zivkovic gave the Greeks a crucial advantage.

Hearts must now pull off a victory in the intimidating Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki next Thursday if they are to qualify for the group stage, but McAvoy remains optimistic.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game and a tight affair,” said the head coach. “It was disappointing that we scored then they got a penalty so early after it.

“Then we score with Shanks and the elation then turned to a sour note when it got chopped off. Then they score from a corner.

“As for emotions, I’m disappointed with the result but in spells I felt our shape without the ball was really good. They’re a good team and they try to hit on the counter and there were some pleasing moments.

“We know what we’ve got to do now – we’ve got to win the game and I believe it’s possible for us to do that. That’s what we’ve got to look forward to in the next leg.

“We just need to make sure we’re prepared as best we can for going to Greece next week knowing that we’ve got to go and win the game.”

McAvoy believes Hearts showed in Thursday’s first leg that they have enough attacking threats to score in Greece next week.

“I thought when we got into good areas we caused them problems,” he said. “First half their keeper made a fantastic save from Shanks, so we know we’ll create chances.

“I think our wide players could cause them issues. We’ve got a good squad. We’ll deal with Dundee as best we can (in the cinch Premiership on Sunday) then really focus on what we’ve got to do in Greece.

“We’ve come a long way since myself, Steven Naismith and Gordon Forrest came in (as a management team at the end of last season) and the players have great belief in themselves.

“That’s important going forward and we’ll have that at the forefront of our minds when we go to Greece next week.”

Hearts suffered a further setback as they lost Barrie McKay to injury midway through the setback.

“It’s too early to say, he felt something in his knee,” said McAvoy, when asked about the extent of the problem. “The guys have to assess it to find how bad it is but it’s too early at the moment.”

Hearts’ hopes of reaching the Europa Conference League group stage sustained a major dent on Thursday night as they suffered a frustrating 2-1 defeat at home to Greek side PAOK in the first leg of their play-off round tie.

The Jambos made the ideal start when they went ahead through Lawrence Shankland’s early penalty, but the visitors equalised with a spot-kick of their own shortly afterwards.

Hearts enjoyed the bulk of the pressure thereafter and Shankland saw a goal ruled out for offside just before Andrija Zivkovic’s superb 75th-minute strike against the run of the play handed the Greeks the initiative.

The cinch Premiership side now face the formidable task of needing a victory at the hostile Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki next Thursday if they are to prolong their European run into the group stage.

Hearts made four changes to the team that started Sunday’s 4-0 Viaplay Cup victory over Partick Thistle as Odel Offiah, Toby Sibbick, Calem Nieuwenhof and Alex Lowry were replaced by Nathaniel Atkinson, Stephen Kingsley, Cammy Devlin and Liam Boyce.

Backed by another packed Tynecastle crowd, the hosts started on the front foot and there were loud shouts for a penalty in the sixth minute when Kenneth Vargas fell under a challenge from Rafa Soares as he burst into the PAOK box.

Latvian referee Andris Treimanis initially was not convinced but after VAR intervened and following a lengthy check of the pitchside monitor, he pointed to the spot. Three minutes after the foul was committed, Shankland, having kept his composure amid the tension, slotted his kick into the net.

The hosts’ celebrations were short-lived, however. Just two minutes after going ahead, they let the Greeks back into it when Kye Rowles chopped down Serbia forward Zivkovic in the box.

It was a clear penalty and captain Stefan Schwab duly tucked his kick beyond Zander Clark, much to the delight of the partisan 300-strong band of travelling fans.

Hearts almost regained the lead in the 31st minute when Devlin’s cross into the box was glanced towards goal by the head of Shankland but goalkeeper Dominik Kotarski did superbly to claw it out. Vargas and Shankland both had attempts to force the rebound in before Boyce, who looked certain to score from six yards out on the follow-up, saw his shot blocked by Soares.

The Jambos threatened again two minutes into the second half when Kingsley flashed an angled half-volley just beyond the far post after PAOK failed to deal with Alex Cochrane’s free-kick into the box.

The Edinburgh side – who lost Barrie McKay to injury just after the hour – thought they had gone ahead in the 66th minute when Shankland curled a superb finish into the top corner after being played in by Boyce just inside the box but after a VAR check, and following lengthy celebrations from the hosts, the scorer was ruled to be offside.

It proved a pivotal moment as PAOK got themselves ahead in the 75th minute when Zivkovic fired home a ferocious low strike from just outside the box after a corner kick was worked into his path, sparking wild celebrations among the visiting players and supporters.

Lee Johnson claims his Hibernian side were up against an Aston Villa side with “almost superhuman” qualities in their 5-0 Europa Conference League thrashing at Easter Road.

It was the Midlands club’s first European tie in 13 years and the first leg of their qualifying play-off tie was won by the interval thanks to three headers, two by England international Ollie Watkins and one from Jamaica’s Leon Bailey.

Watkins grabbed his hat-trick three minutes after the restart with and Douglas Luiz adding a fifth from the spot in the 74th minute to make next week’s second leg at Villa Park all but academic.

It was Johnson’s 500th competitive game in management and he tried to put the defeat into context as he turned his attention to the visit of Livingston in the Premiership on Saturday.

He said: “I think we have a really good, honest bunch of players. I trust them and they give their all every day.

“There is a difference. Premier League players now are almost superhuman in their athleticism. It’s the super-elite from all over the world and that’s what you get.

“It was a good experience, and I don’t think it will affect confidence going into the Livingston game.

“But the physical recovery is really key for us because we are a team that needs to use our running power and our physicality at our level to maximise our performances.

“I’m still proud of the club for being at this level on this stage. The reality is we have an English League One budget against a fantastic multi-international standard Aston Villa.

“It was clear there was a gulf in class, I can’t deny that.

“At half-time we wanted to salvage some pride and look like we were going to go and win the half. We started it pretty well and got behind them, but that’s the difference – one break, one poor positional error, one quality pass and a great finish.

“Having played against Premier League teams in the past, you cannot make positional errors because they’re punished.

“So I hope this experience is a good one, because your lessons can become your teacher. We can grow from having felt the quality of the athleticism, the touch and the tactical work that Villa did tonight.”

Villa boss Unai Emery was pleased with the way his side approached their biggest away win in Europe.

He said: “If we weren’t competitive and serious we could have had problems.

“We spoke before the match about how we had to respect the opponents and be focused and consistent in our game plan.

“We knew if we weren’t we could have lost. We were focused and disciplined and consistent for 90 minutes. That is the mentality I want to create here.”

Emery revealed he replaced goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez with Robin Olsen for the start of the second half because the World Cup winner “had a small pain and we didn’t want to take a risk with him”.

Former Hibs favourite John McGinn captained Villa and was a powerhouse in midfield to the delight of his boss.

“He is amazing,” said Emery.

“I know you love him here more than me, but I think he is amazing.

“He always wants, from the first minute to the 90th minute, to run and to be competitive.

“I am very happy with him. And not only as a player, as a person as well. His commitment is very high.

“He is always positive, always smiling. In bad moments, in good moments, he always keeps the same mentality. It is fantastic.”

Ollie Watkins grabbed a hat-trick as Aston Villa effectively booked their place in the Europa Conference League with a 5-0 away win over Hibernian.

It was the Midlands club’s first European tie in 13 years and the first leg of their qualifying play-off tie was done and dusted by the interval after three headers, two by England international Watkins and one from Jamaica’s Leon Bailey.

The second half promised more pain for the stunned Premiership outfit and Watkins delivered another blow three minutes after the restart before Douglas Luiz added a fifth from the spot in the 74th minute of a one-sided contest.

It was Lee Johnson’s 500th competitive game in management and the Hibs boss will know the emphatic scoreline could have been worse.

The chasm in quality between the top-flight in Scotland and England was laid bare and it did not make for good viewing for those north of the border.

Heavy favourites or not, Unai Emery was taking the game seriously, making one change to his side which beat Everton 4-0 in the Premier League at the weekend with Matty Cash making way for Diego Carlos.

Former Hibs favourite John McGinn’s returned to Leith as Villa captain and he heard some early boos from the home fans, but they soon had more to worry about.

Johnson had the pace of Martin Boyle, Elie Youan and Dylan Vente in attack but they got little encouragement early on.

David Marshall saved a Lucas Digne header and a deflected strike from Moussa Diaby, but Hibs succumbed in the 17th minute when Digne’s cross from the left was glanced in by Watkins to the cheers of around 1,000 away fans.

Watkins should have doubled that lead three minutes later but – unmarked – he headed a McGinn cross over the bar.

Hibs came back and there was a penalty claim in the 26th minute when Boyle went to ground in the box as he tangled with Villa’s Douglas Luiz but Spanish referee Ricardo de Burgos was unimpressed.

Villa always looked dangerous when driving forward and in the 32nd minute, when Douglas Luiz swung in a corner from the left, Diego Carlos flicked on and Watkins stole in at the back post to head into the roof of the net.

Reality had set in for the home side.

McGinn played his part in Villa’s third, sending the tireless Digne down the left and when his delightful cross floated over Marshall, Bailey nodded in from almost on the line in the 42nd minute.

There was time before the break for Watkins to narrowly miss the target with an angled-drive.

Emery replaced World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez with Robin Olsen for the start of the second half and the Sweden international soon tipped a shot from Youan over the bar, but Villa survived the corner before extending their lead.

Watkins confidently slid the ball into the net from another Digne delivery after getting away from the Hibs defence. His effort was initially ruled offside only for the VAR to confirm the goal was legal.

Hibs needed to prevent further embarrassment but after defender Lewis Stevenson tripped tricky substitute Bertrand Traore in the box, Douglas Luiz knocked in the penalty.

Villa cruised the rest of the game and the demoralised home side welcomed the final whistle which to all intents and purpose signalled the end of their European hopes this season.

Frankie McAvoy savoured “a special occasion” at a packed Tynecastle as Hearts staged a stunning fightback to edge out Rosenborg in a dramatic Europa Conference League qualifier.

Cammy Devlin scored the decisive goal in stoppage time to secure a 3-1 win on the night and a 4-3 aggregate triumph, setting up a play-off round showdown with Greek side PAOK.

Head coach McAvoy believes it was a night to remember for the packed Tynecastle crowd as the Jambos clawed their way back into the match after trailing 3-1 on aggregate six minutes into the second leg.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions at the side of the pitch,” he said.

“We lost an early goal, which wasn’t ideal if I’m honest with you. And we looked a little tentative at the beginning, I don’t know if the occasion got to some of us.

“But character sums up the team. We came back, 3-1 down on aggregate, to win 4-3 on the night and the players deserve immense credit.

“The support drove us on, it was a special occasion. Tynecastle under the lights is difficult and daunting for anyone.

“Rosenborg are a good team, you saw that tonight. They had more of the ball than they did last week and they were more in our faces.

“So over the piece I am delighted for everyone connected with Hearts that we’re through to the next round.

“The ultras behind the goal really make it a big occasion in Scottish football and it is great to see. I can’t speak highly enough of them.

“They drove us on and that’s fantastic. Everyone talks about cliches of a 12th man, they were that tonight.”

Captain Lawrence Shankland started the fightback in the first half before Devlin – not renowned for his goal-scoring – sealed the deal with a double after the break.

McAvoy praised the Australian for his willingness to get forward from his deep-lying midfield role.

“I’m delighted for Cammy,” he said. “We like him. He’s done really well for us since we’ve come in. We’re delighted with him.

“The good thing is he’s getting forward and into the box, which is one of the things we have asked him to do. For me, he is a fantastic young player, a great squad member and we’re delighted with his contribution tonight.”

Cammy Devlin scored a stoppage-time winner as Hearts mounted a stirring fightback from two goals behind on aggregate to eliminate Rosenborg in a dramatic Europa Conference League third qualifying-round tie.

The Jambos, already trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Norway, came from behind in the second leg at a packed Tynecastle to win 3-1 on the night and secure a 4-3 triumph over the two legs, setting up a play-off with Greek side PAOK later this month.

The Norwegians looked to be in full control when an early goal from Isak Thorvaldsson put them 3-1 ahead on aggregate.

But the Jambos came roaring back to level the tie through goals from captain Lawrence Shankland and Devlin. The Australian midfielder then sparked bedlam with his second of the night in added time.

Hearts made three changes to the team that started Sunday’s goalless draw at home to Kilmarnock in the cinch Premiership as 19-year-old Aidan Denholm came in for his first competitive start along with Liam Boyce and Alex Cochrane, while Peter Haring, Alex Lowry and Kyosuke Tagawa dropped out.

A sold-out Tynecastle was at its raucous best as the teams emerged from the tunnel, but the Norwegians silenced the home support just six minutes in.

Thorvaldsson did the damage when he drilled the rebound over the line from the edge of the six-yard box after goalkeeper Zander Clark had done superbly to keep out the striker’s initial header from an Adrian Pereira free-kick.

Hearts almost equalised two minutes later, but Yutaro Oda smashed an angled shot off the far post after being played in to the box on the right by Shankland.

Clark had to make an impressive save in the 12th minute to prevent Rosenborg stretching their lead when he got down to his left to stop Emil Frederiksen finding the net with a low shot from eight yards out after the attacker had got himself clear inside the box.

It proved a pivotal moment as Hearts went straight up the pitch and scored.

Left-back Stephen Kingsley clipped a speculative through-ball in behind and Shankland managed to get himself clear before producing a lovely finish as he nonchalantly chipped the advancing Andre Hansen from the edge of the box.

The Jambos were suddenly full of confidence and they had a great chance to level the tie on aggregate in the 28th minute when Shankland ran on to an Oda pass down the right and saw his angled shot blocked by the legs of the keeper when he had Boyce in the middle begging for the ball to be squared.

Hearts continued in the ascendancy for the remainder of the first half.

In the 40th minute Kye Rowles headed over from Kingsley’s cross and seconds later Cochrane saw a firm low shot from the edge of the box saved by Hansen.

The hosts survived a scare four minutes after the restart when Nathaniel Atkinson had to hook the ball off the goal-line after his own attempt to clear a cross into the six-yard box ricocheted back off team-mate Rowles.

Seconds later Hearts went ahead on the night and levelled the tie on aggregate when Devlin followed up to smash a loose ball high into the net from a few yards out after Boyce’s powerful shot from 12 yards out was blocked by Hansen.

And Devlin had the final say in added time when his low deflected shot from the edge of the box found the net, sparking jubilant scenes inside Tynecastle.

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