Hearts learn their next European opponents after knocking Rosenborg out on an epic night at Tynecastle

Hearts' Nathaniel Atkinson celebrates as with Cammy Devlin as he scores to make it 3-1 against Rosenborg. Pic: SNS
Hearts' Nathaniel Atkinson celebrates as with Cammy Devlin as he scores to make it 3-1 against Rosenborg. Pic: SNS

An epic and exhausting night at Tynecastle Park ended with Hearts knocking Rosenborg out of European competition in dramatic fashion thanks to Cammy Devlin’s stoppage-time winning goal. A 4-3 aggregate victory sets up a tie with Greek club PAOK Salonika in the Europa Conference League play-off, the first leg of which takes place in Edinburgh next week.

Hearts trailed 2-1 from last week’s first leg in Norway and fell 3-1 behind on aggregate when Rosenborg striker Isak Thorvaldsson hit an early goal on the night. Lawrence Shankland’s quick reply preceded Devlin’s first goal shortly after half-time to level the tie at 3-3 on aggregate. The Australian left it late to execute his second on a night which was up there with any witnessed at Tynecastle.

There was noise, controversy, some fine goals, contentious decisions and an overwhelming dose of tension as the second half progressed. Whilst Rosenborg wilted and paid the price, Hearts remained composed and strong to see this task through and secure a place in the next round. That means a trip to Greece at the end of the month.

The Gorgie locals knew their vocal cords were required to raise the decibel level inside Tynecastle and potentially intimidate what is a young Rosenborg side. The loss of dangerous Canadian winger Jayden Nelson was a pre-match jolt for the visitors, whilst Hearts granted 19-year-old midfielder Aidan Denholm his first competitive start in maroon.

His impressive display as a substitute in Trondheim last week earned him a place in the starting line-up for probably the Edinburgh club’s biggest game of 2023 so far. Seats sold out prior to kick-off, guaranteeing an electric ambience at the start of the evening. It was the kind of balmy summer’s night made for European qualifying ties and Hearts were desperate to avoid elimination this early in the campaign.

However, they fell 1-0 behind on the night inside five minutes. Thorvaldsson won a free-kick from Frankie Kent wide on the left and, when Adrian Pereira delivered the set-piece, the striker rose for a powerful header which Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark beat away. Thorvaldsson reacted instantly to shoot from the rebound and the ball squirmed through the diving Clark’s legs to cross the goal line. A 3-1 aggregate scoreline was a considerable hurdle for the hosts to overcome.

Yutaro Oda struck a post moments later to offer a glimmer of hope, but Emil Frederiksen would have claimed a second for the Norwegians had Clark not produced another one-handed stop. Shankland dragged Hearts back into this tie moments later. He fastened on to Stephen Kingsley’s forward ball and found himself through on the Rosenborg goalkeeper Andre Hansen. One delicate and composed chip over the advancing stopper and the hosts were level on the night.

It was the Kingsley-Shankland combination which produced Hearts’ goal in Trondheim and they had worked together again to perk up the Tynecastle support after that early shock. Shankland saw another deflected effort saved only by Hansen’s foot as the half-hour mark approached. Hearts were now in the ascendancy and pressing to score again whilst mindful of Rosenborg’s counter-attacking capabilities. As some uncompromising challenges went unpunished by the Israeli referee, tensions grew in the technical areas. A few heated verbal exchanges took place between Hearts and Rosenborg coaches.

Kingsley was enjoying an excellent night at left-back. His cross found Kye Rowles six minutes before the interval for a header which clipped the top of the crossbar. Hansen then parried Alex Cochrane’s right-footed effort as the visitors appeared to be rocking. They got to half-time and Hearts replaced Oda with Barrie McKay, the Scot making his return after injury.

Pressure continued and yielded a second goal for the home side within five minutes of the restart. Liam Boyce – making his first competitive start in a year after cruciate ligament damage – brilliantly dummied two opponents to create space for a shot inside the penalty area which Hansen beat away. Devlin reacted quickest to thump the loose ball into the net off the underside of the crossbar from a tight angle. Cue bedlam.

Hearts made life difficult for themselves losing the early goal but their recovery was remarkable to bring this tie level at 3-3 on aggregate. Tynecastle was in full voice as the Jambos support urged them to finish the job. There was no room for error, though, and it was clear that a mature and responsible approach was the only option for those in maroon. Rosenborg knew one goal could change the complexion of the game and again their 16-year-old midfielder Sverre Nypan stood out as a multi-million-pound player in the making.

The game fluctuated from one end to the other entering the final 20 minutes. Both teams knew a gamble could reap huge rewards at this stage. Hearts replaced Boyce and Denholm with Kyosuke Tagawa and Alan Forrest respectively. That meant shunting Cochrane inside from a wide-left position to central midfield alongside Devlin. The tenacious Australian was one of the best players on the field as he again thrived on the big occasion.

Nerves began building in the final 10 minutes and, as Rosenborg crept forward, a few of the home side looked slightly jaded. Understandably so given the energy they had expended up until this point. They still had enough for one last hurrah in stoppage-time. Devlin stepped forward from midfield and collected a lay-off from Shankland. His first attempt was blocked, but his second whistled past the goalkeeper via a deflection. With that, the Gorgie boys made all the noise as they charged into the next round.

Hearts (4-2-3-1): Clark; Atkinson, Kent, Rowles, Kingsley; Devlin (Halliday 90), Denholm (Forrest 66); Oda (McKay 46), Boyce (Tagawa 66), Cochrane (Sibbick 90); Shankland.

Rosenborg (4-3-3): Hansen; Andersson (Holte 88), Reitan (Rosten 73), Jenssen, Pereira; Skarsem (Wiedesheim-Paul 58), Borkeeiet, Nypan; Holse, Thorvaldsson (Cornic 88), Frederiksen.

Referee: David Fuxman (Israel).

Attendance: 17,942.