The 2019/20 football season kicked off north of the border this evening as Hearts secured a bonus point win against Dundee United in Group A of the Betfred Cup.
The Jam Tarts reached the semi-finals of the tournament last season, crashing out to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Celtic at Murrayfield Stadium. Their opponents this evening only secured one win against League Two side Elgin City and were eliminated in the group stages.
Story of the game
As the rain poured down at Tynecastle, both home and away supporters caught a glimpse of their sides’ new players.
Hearts manager Craig Levein decided to give first starts to a returning Jamie Walker following his move from Wigan Athletic and Northern Irish striker Conor Washington who has arrived at the capital from Sheffield United. Craig Halkett, who has signed from Livingston, took his place on the substitutes bench.
Former Hearts boss Robbie Neilson welcomed three new faces to his United side, with Argentinean left-back Adrian Sporle and former Ayr United duo Liam Smith and Lawrence Shankland featuring in the visitors’ starting XI. Mark Reynolds captained the side, having signed permanently from Aberdeen following a loan spell last season.
It took Shankland just nine minutes to open his account for the club, meeting a Sam Stanton pass with his head to break the deadlock.
United keeper Benjamin Siegrist was on hand to prevent shots from Sean Clare and Walker as well as seeing a near instant reply from Washington go wide as United maintained their lead.
The hosts maintained their dominance throughout the first half however and finally got their equaliser in the 44th minute. Andrew Irving hit a left footed shot from outside the box that reached the bottom right corner following a free kick, and the teams retired to their dressing rooms with the score at one apiece.
Both sides continued to create goal scoring opportunities throughout the second half, with Nicky Clark and Dario Zanatta both having their sides’ best chances go wide.
Hearts were reduced to ten men with seven minutes left on the clock when goal scorer Irving was given his marching orders from referee Kevin Clancy for a deliberate handball outside the box.
With neither club grabbing a late winner the match was brought to a close and therefore a penalty shootout ensued to discover which team would collect a valuable bonus point.
Clare got the ball rolling for the hosts, smashing the ball into the top left corner.
Having watched their side fail to convert a single penalty in their Premiership playoff second leg loss to St Mirren, they looked set for another disappointing end to their evening as the ever-dependable Clark saw his chance saved by Zdenek Zlamal.
Every penalty that was taken after the former Rangers striker’s miss were successfully converted, with Bozanic, Smith and Washington scoring for Hearts and McMullan, Banks and Bouhenna for United.
John Souttar, who started his professional career at Tannadice, was the man selected to take the decisive spot kick against his former team, and the Scotland international saw his effort hit the top corner to secure the win for Hearts.
Hearts sit at the top of Group A with Cowdenbeath taking on East Fife tomorrow. The Jam Tarts go over the River Forth to face the Blue Brazil on Tuesday night. Dundee United will also be in action just 25 miles away from Central Park as they face Stenhousemuir at Ochilview.
Hearts (4-4-2): Zlamal; Smith, Souttar, Berra, Hickey; Walker (McDonald, 80), Clare, Irving, Mulraney (Zanatta, 75); Washington, Ikpeazu (Bozanic, 84)
Dundee United (4-4-1-1): Siegrist: Smith, Connolly, Reynolds, Sporle (Butcher, 45); McMullan, Stanton (Banks, 73), Bouhenna, Robson; Clark; Shankland (Appere, 63)