Birkirkara 0-0 Hearts: Robbie Neilson confident for second leg

Robbie Neilson and some Hearts players
Hearts endured the heat to claim a draw in Malta

Head coach Robbie Neilson believes Hearts are firm favourites to progress to the Europa League third qualifying round after a 0-0 draw with Birkirkara.

In temperatures of around 30C, the Tynecastle side dominated the game at the Hibernians Stadium in Malta.

Neilson was pleased overall with his side's performance.

"It's a decent result." Neilson told BBC Scotland. "Obviously you want to come to these games and win but they beat West Ham 1-0 here last year."

Hearts had the vast majority of possession but were restricted to few chances as the home side defended in numbers.

"It was a tough game with 30C heat and the pitch was dry and it was difficult for us but if someone gave you a one-off shot at beating Birkirkara at Tynecastle I would take it," added Neilson.

"They sit deep and they have no interest in opening up to attack. They try and hit you on the counter. The pleasing thing was we kept our patience and our discipline and we didn't give anything away."

Birkirkara win would be 'greatest result'

Birkirkara captain Gareth Sciberras was content with the result and is looking forward to playing in front of a packed Tynecastle next Thursday.

"Our aim was to stay in the tie for the second leg so a 0-0 result is always good at home and we can go to Edinburgh now with more confidence," said the midfielder, 33.

"A lot of our players have never played at such a stadium. The atmosphere will be a huge motivation for our players and I think we will take it in the best possible way.

"If we go through, yes it would be the greatest result. We have never made it past this round before. It would be the biggest achievement for Maltese football, actually. So I think a lot of the general Maltese football supporters will be cheering us on next week."

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