Hearts' European hopes dashed after PAOK thrashing



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Hearts’ hopes of a second consecutive season of European group-stage football ended with a 4-0 thrashing to PAOK in Greece.

The Edinburgh side lost 6-1 on aggregate in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

A marginal offside had cost Hearts the chance to go 2-1 up at Tynecastle in the first leg before a long-range strike gave the Greek side the advantage, but any hopes of progress for Steven Naismith and Frankie McAvoy’s side were ended inside the first quarter in Thessaloniki.

The visitors also lost influential defender Stephen Kingsley to injury in the second half.

There was little between the sides in the early stages, but Hearts had a warning when PAOK skipper Vierinha struck the crossbar from long range.

The home side went ahead in the 16th minute after Hearts right-back Nathaniel Atkinson conceded a free-kick with a clumsy challenge.

Brazilian winger Taison curled a low delivery from out wide and the ball went straight into the net inside the far post.

There was a strong claim for the goal to be disallowed as Giannis Konstantelias had come back from an offside position and walked in front of Lawrence Shankland as the ball went through the Hearts striker’s legs. However, the VAR officials decided the midfielder had not interfered with play.

The visitors went three ahead on aggregate midway through the half following a cross from the right.

Stefan Schwab got above Atkinson to head down to Brandon and the Spanish striker held off Kye Rowles and hooked the ball past Zander Clark with his back to goal.

Hearts had a chance for a lifeline right at the end of the half when Kenneth Vargas got beyond his man on the byline and centred for Alex Cochrane, who was denied by a block as he tried to flick the ball home from close range.

PAOK moved further ahead in the 57th minute. The home goalkeeper’s long ball went over the head of Rowles and the ball was delivered inside for Konstantelias, who had time to mis-kick his first attempt and still be able to stroke home unchallenged.

Kingsley limped off after a lengthy period of treatment and there was a clear sign that Hearts were starting to focus on Sunday’s Scottish Premiership clash with Motherwell when skipper Shankland was taken off as well.

There was further misery for the Jambos when PAOK broke clear for a fourth goal in the 71st minute after Cammy Devlin was barged off the ball on the edge of the Greek side’s box following a Hearts free-kick.

Taison kept his cool to slip the ball through Clark’s legs and net his second goal of the night and complete another heavy defeat for Scottish clubs in Europe following recent humblings for Hibernian and Rangers.

What’s next?

Hearts return to Scottish Premiership action on Sunday at home to Motherwell. Kick-off 3pm.



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