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Ten-man Hearts crash out of Europa League after Jorge Grant’s red card

Heart of Midlothian v FC Zurich – UEFA Europa League – Play Offs – Second Leg – Tynecastle Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Hearts suffered Europa League play-off agony at Tynecastle after a red card for Jorge Grant effectively killed off their hopes of overturning FC Zurich’s first-leg lead.

The Jambos dominated the first half and, with the backing of a frenzied home support, looked like they might be able to get the goal that would bring the tie level.

However, midfielder Grant was shown a second yellow card in the 54th minute after diving in the box, with the extra-man advantage allowing Zurich to take the sting out of proceedings and eventually seal a 3-1 aggregate win when substitute Fabian Rohner scored the only goal of the second leg with 10 minutes left.

Heart of Midlothian v FC Zurich – UEFA Europa League – Play Offs – Second Leg – Tynecastle Park

Fabian Rohner scored the only goal of the game after Jorge Grant saw red (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Hearts will now drop into the group stage of the Europa Conference League.

Jambos boss Robbie Neilson made three changes from the side that started the 2-1 first-leg defeat in St Gallen last Thursday as Michael Smith, Alan Forrest and Liam Boyce replaced Nathaniel Atkinson, Peter Haring and the injured Craig Halkett.

Zurich were backed by a noisy travelling support numbering around 400, helping create a sensational atmosphere as the teams emerged at a sold-out Tynecastle.

Hearts started on the front foot and threatened early on when Barrie McKay released Boyce down the left with a magnificent pass but the Northern Irishman was unable to pick out a maroon jersey with his cross as he burst into the box.

The hosts almost took the lead in the 14th minute when Alex Cochrane picked out Alan Forrest with a lovely cross-field pass from left to right and the winger cut inside and saw a ferocious angled strike brilliantly beaten away by Zurich keeper Yanick Brecher.

Heart of Midlothian v FC Zurich – UEFA Europa League – Play Offs – Second Leg – Tynecastle Park

Liam Boyce was left cursing a missed chance as Hearts lost (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Kye Rowles then saw a header from Grant’s corner saved by Brecher in the 26th minute.

Hearts were dominating and in the 32nd minute Forrest produced some excellent play wide on the right before firing in a powerful cutback but Boyce was unable to turn it into the net from close range.

The home side looked certain to take the lead two minutes later when Boyce slipped a lovely pass through to Forrest on the right of the penalty area but Zurich defender Mirlind Kryeziu slid in to make a brilliant goal-saving tackle on the edge of his six-yard box.

The Jambos would have deserved a half-time lead for what was a barnstorming first-half display but they were left cursing their luck two minutes before the break when Forrest picked out Boyce with a cross from the right and the attacker headed powerfully down into the ground and watched in despair as it bounced up over the bar.

Heart of Midlothian v FC Zurich – UEFA Europa League – Play Offs – Second Leg – Tynecastle Park

Jorge Grant was given a second yellow for trying to win a penalty (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Zurich had their first attempt at goal in the 49th minute when Bogdan V’Yunnik tried his luck from a free-kick 25 yards out but his strike sailed harmlessly over Craig Gordon’s bar.

Hearts suddenly had the wind removed from their sails in the 54th minute, however, when Grant was shown a second yellow card for diving in the Zurich box to try to win a penalty.

Zurich threatened in the 65th minute, with substitute Willy Gnonto seeing an effort from 15 yards out excellently saved by Gordon. Moments later the Hearts goalkeeper appeared to be struck by a coin while preparing to take a free-kick in front of the Zurich supporters.

The red card had taken the sting out of Hearts’ challenge and just seconds after visiting substitute Aiyegun Tosin hit the outside of the post with a low strike from the edge of the box, the Swiss champions made the breakthrough in the 80th minute when Rohner thumped home from close range.

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