Pressley relishing Champions League challenge

July 27, 2006

Hearts skipper Steven Pressley is looking forward to taking on one of Europe's top teams in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League after the Gorgie side grabbed a commanding 3-0 first-leg victory in the second qualifier against Siroki Brijeg at Murrayfield.

The Edinburgh men are now overwhelming favourites to go through the tie against the Bosnians and Friday's third-round draw could see them paired with households names such as Arsenal, Liverpool, Benfica or Ajax.

The Gorgie club, playing in the competition for the first time, looked nervous at times in the first half but took the lead just after the break through an own goal by visiting defender Branimir Anic.

The visitors seemed to lose spirit thereafter and lost a second in the 78th minute, Ibrahim Tall driving in from close range.

With five minutes remaining Jambos striker Roman Bednar pounced on a slack pass back by Siroki stopper Ivica Landeka to score the third and almost certainly guarantee progress through to the lucrative next round.

Pressley said: 'Of course we will have one eye on the next round but the job isn't done yet.

'But Friday is when the mouth-watering draw for the third qualifier is made and we'll all watch with great anticipation.

'All ties are possible and there's no tie that I don't believe we could win.

'And it would be great if we could progress to the group stages because financially, it would be fantastic for this club.

'The supporters made a great atmosphere at Murrayfield and if we go through to the next round and get a big tie then we could attract a phenomenal crowd.'

Despite admitting that Hearts were the better side, Siroki Brijeg head coach Ivica Barbaric criticised referee Espen Berntsen, accusing the official of letting Jambos' defender Robbie Neilson step over the line at his throw-in which led to the opener.

Neilson dismissed the Bosnian's remarks as he looked forward to the second leg in Bosnia next week with cautious optimism.

He said: 'I think he's being a bit trivial saying that but if I did then I did, but I wasn't aware of it.

'But it's still going to be very difficult to win the tie.

'We played Zeljeznicar a couple of seasons ago and they didn't play too well over here but they were a different team on their own ground in Bosnia.

'But we've got three goals so that gives us a good chance.'