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Fiorentina 5 – 1 Hearts

Scottish football’s European battle continued as Hearts suffered a 5-1 defeat to Fiorentina in Italy on Thursday night.

Hearts at least kept the ship steady in the second half of the Europa Conference League in Florence after it appeared to be on course for the kind of 7-1 thrashing Rangers dealt by Liverpool 24 hours earlier.

Stephen Humphrys made it 4-1 early in the second half to cheer 4,000 Hearts fans at the Stadio Artemio Franchi before the home side restored their four-goal lead with a late penalty.

Hearts also suffered another defensive injury when Nathaniel Atkinson went off the track in the first half. Robbie Neilson’s side have little hope of progress from Europa Conference League Group A if they go on to beat RFS and Istanbul Basaksehir, but Fiorentina must fall behind in their last two games.

Fiorentina's Luka Jovic, third from right, scores his side's opening goal in Florence
Fiorentina’s Luka Jovic, third from right, scores his side’s opening goal in Florence

The Hearts manager had called on his side to push the Serie A side more aggressively higher up the field after a 3-0 defeat at Tynecastle last week and the tactic almost paid off within 30 seconds.

Barrie McKay won the ball deep into the home half and Humphrys hit the post from almost 25 yards before Jorge Grant’s follow-up was saved.

Craig Gordon soon had to spring into action to stop a free kick header from Christian Kouame and, like seven days earlier, Hearts conceded early.

Atkinson collapsed with a lower leg injury while defending the game, and he was dealt off the pitch when Fiorentina took the short corner, which led to Luka Jovic beating Alex Cochrane and going for the ball, heading in the post in the sixth. minute.

Fiorentina's Nicolas Gonzalez, second from left, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal
Fiorentina’s Nicolas Gonzalez, second from left, celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal

Rolando Mandragora struck an 18-yard strike from the post after another corner and Fiorentina doubled their lead midway through the half when skipper Cristiano Biraghi scored a brilliant 20-yard free kick after McKay was penalized heavily for withdrawing from a challenge.

Gordon made a good stop from Nicolas Gonzalez, but was soon beaten by the same player in the 32nd minute as Hearts were pulled apart.

The traveling fans may have feared they would follow Dundee United and Rangers as they saw their side concede seven goals in Europe this season when Antonio Barak finished a one-two with Kouame in the 38th minute.

Humphrys had pulled a shot past the post in the midst of the first half defeat and the loaned Wigan striker pulled a goal back in the 47th minute. McKay sent Halliday on the overlap and the left back squared for Humphrys to finish.

The visitors were much more competitive in the second half and appeared to have closed the back door until Cochrane knocked down Riccardo Saponara after selling himself on the edge of the penalty area. Gonzalez converted the 79th-minute kick.

Substitute Lawrence Shankland came close to consoling when he chopped the keeper from 45 yards, the ball landed on the roof of the net as Pierluigi Gollini scrambled back.

Neilson: We didn’t match up with Fiorentina

Robbie Neilson told BT Sport:

“It’s small margins at the start – we hit the post and didn’t get the rebound. But we played against a very, very good team and I felt like we weren’t close enough in the first half, not aggressive enough in the contact.

“We were down 4-0, but to the credit of the players we were much more aggressive in our press and played a much better second half. Fiorentina are a very strong team, very physical and we didn’t match that first half. we did half.

“We had words at half time, when you play at this level it’s often technical and tactical, but it’s also mental, you have to believe when you make the contacts that you’re going to win the ball. When you get close to people, you have to put pressure on them and I felt that in the second half we did that much, much more.”

What’s next?

Saturday October 22 at noon

Kick-off 12.30 pm

hearts return to Scottish Premiership action on Sunday when they travel to Pittodrie to record it Aberdeenwith kick-off at 3 p.m.

Robbie Neilson’s side next hosts champions Celtic in Tynecastle on Saturday 22 October – live on air sports – with kick-off at 12.30 pm.

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