Neilson hails Hearts spirit after stunning Motherwell in 3-2 thriller

Hearts were down to ten men but sealed three points with a late penalty.

Robbie Neilson hails Hearts spirit after stunning Motherwell in 3-2 thriller SNS Group

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson hailed the Tynecastle spirit after his side bounced back from a red card and a late equaliser to beat Motherwell 3-2.

Jorge Grant was sent off in the 38th minute but Andy Halliday scored either side of half-time and Lawrence Shankland netted from an 89th-minute penalty after goals from Louis Moult and Blair Spittal got the visitors level.

Neilson’s side have navigated a lengthy injury list and their European campaign to sit fourth in the cinch Premiership.

“I’m delighted with the spirit of the group, the club,” he said. “The players brought the energy and that was reciprocated by the fans and you can see at the end there is a real belief that we can win these games.”

Motherwell manager Steven Hammell was “massively disappointed” with the way the game turned out.

“We conceded goals exactly when you don’t want to,” he added. “We still had enough of this game to be coming away with, at the very, very least a point, if not all three.”

Once again, the role of VAR frustrated both managers.

Neilson felt referee Kevin Clancy should have been told to review his straight red card for Grant’s lunging challenge on Callum Slattery and claimed goalkeeper Craig Gordon got the ball when he was penalised for bringing down Moult before the striker scored from the spot.

Neilson said: “Having seen it, and even at the time, I didn’t think it was a red card. Kevin’s thoughts at the time were that he was high and out of control and reckless. When you look at it, he’s definitely not high because he is on the ground, his studs are down. There is going to be some kind of velocity when you make a tackle, that’s part of football.

“My belief is we’ve got VAR there for a reason and there was an opportunity to look at it again and, I think if he sees it, he changes his mind.

“Looking at the penalty with Craig Gordon, when you look at the real details of it, when the player plays the ball, yes they come together, but the spin of the ball changes so Craig gets a touch on the ball, hence he makes the save.

“But the people watching VAR don’t understand that. You have to look at the ball, not just the player and the goalkeeper.”

Hammell, meanwhile, was frustrated that Sondre Solholm was penalised for handball for the winning penalty and that his side did not get an award for an appeal against Toby Sibbick when Moult’s shot was blocked.

Both incidents were checked by video referee David Munro but Clancy never went to the monitor.

Hammell said: “Last week we were told any shot going towards the goal that gets blocked by the arm is a penalty. We feel that one has gone against us. There is a little bit of confusion.

“In terms of what VAR does to the game, I feel it takes away from the spectators and coaching point of view. It takes a lot away from the game in my opinion.”

The Motherwell boss felt Kevin van Veen might have been played onside when a goal was chalked off and also questioned why Gordon was not shown a second yellow card for bringing down Moult.

“I don’t want to sit here and make it sound like I’m making excuses,” he said. “But, yes, when you bring someone down when they’re going through on goal then it’s a clear foul and an easy yellow card.” 

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