Hearts boss Robbie Neilson content with goalless draw in Malta

14 July 2016 09:23

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson insists he would have taken a 0-0 draw against Birkirkara prior to kick-off after insisting the Jambos are now in pole position to progress.

With the mercury hitting 27 degrees Celsius and the humidity measured at a suffocating 77 per cent, the capital club turned in a professional Europa League display.

Alim Ozturk struck the crossbar and Connor Sammon saw a goal controversially disallowed, otherwise Hearts would be returning to Edinburgh with a deserved triumph.

And Neilson was beaming with pride as his players recovered in the dressing room.

Neilson continued: "They were exactly what we thought they would be like. When they beat West Ham out here last year they stifled the game and sat in with two banks of four.

"They wait for you to open up, get frustrated then look to score on the counter attack. But we stopped them doing it. If you'd said we have one game against them at Tynecastle I'd have taken it.

"Teams will come here and get beat and turned over. But we leave here in a good position.

"They might change their gameplan at Tynecastle. The temperature will be lower, the pitch will be better and there will be a huge crowd. So I'd expect us to perform at a higher level and get a result."

Neilson also revealed that several of his stars vomited following the stifling contest as the exertions under the baking Maltese sun took their toll.

He lauded: "I was really pleased with the lads' fitness levels.

"A couple were sick after the match and it's really difficult to play in that heat.

"It was a really good performance, a mature one considering we have lots of guys who haven't played in Europe before this season."

Source: PA