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NEILSON’S POSITIVE OUTLOOK

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HEARTS boss Robbie Neilson searched for postives among the disappointment of the Scottish Cup Final penalty-kick showdown loss to Celtic.

The Tynecastle gaffer saw his side battle from 2-0 down at the interval to get it back to 2-2 to force extra-time.

And the Edinburgh club displayed their fortitude to respond from another blow when Leigh Griffiths scored a third for Neil Lennon’s champions who were looking for their twelfth successive domestic honour. But once again, the Championship men came off the ropes to get another leveller to take the tie to penalty-kicks.

Craig Gordon saved from former Hoops team-mate Ryan Christie before rookie keeper Conor Hazard, in only his third first-team appearance, denied Stephen Kingsley and Craig Wighton.

Neilson, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “That performance was fantastic and if we take that into every league game we will win 99 out of 100. So, we have to take the positives from it.

“We came in here as underdogs and we probably had the better of the game, the better of the chances.

“We knew Celtic would have a lot of possession, but they scored a wonder goal and a penalty kick. The disappointing thing is we put ourselves in a position to win it and we just couldn’t get over the line.

“But the positives are we showed we can compete with one of the best teams in Scotland. We have a game on Saturday so we need to recover quickly.”

The Hoops looked to be cruising at half-time through a spectacular effort from Christie and a penalty-kick from Odsonne Edouard.

However, Liam Boyce pulled one back in the 48th minute before Kingsley levelled in the 67th minute. Griffiths scored in the 105th minute before Josh Ginnelly took the tie to a spot-kick showdown.

Griffiths and Callum McGregor scored before Gordon thwarted Christie. Steven Naismith, Michael Smith and Olly Lee netted their penalties before Hazard denied Kingsley and Wighton and, after Mikey Johnston had scored to make it 3-3, Kristoffer Ajer drove in the winning spot-kick to spark the Celtic celebrations.

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About Author

Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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