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EDINBURGH: Ten-man Hearts came from behind to progress to the Scottish League Cup final 5-4 on penalties as they made Inverness pay for a host of missed chances.
Philip Roberts blasted the decisive penalty over the bar after the game had finished 1-1 after extra time as Inverness were cruelly denied a historic first appearance in a major cup final.
Andrew Shinnie had given Inverness a 49th-minute lead before debutant Michael Ngoo, who had earlier hit the post, hauled Hearts level in the 66th minute.
Scott Robinson was sent off in the 76th minute for a reckless challenge on Owain Tudur-Jones.
Inverness had two golden opportunities to win the tie in extra time but Roberts’ miss sends Hearts through to the final where they will meet the winners of tomorrow’s semi-final between St Mirren and Celtic.
Hearts, who had made six changes to the side that lost to Celtic last week, started with a side with seven players 21 or under as on-loan Liverpool striker Ngoo made his debut.
The Jambos had the first real chance of the match in the seventh minute when Danny Wilson played a neat one-two with Robinson and then fired in a shot that Antonio Reguero managed to turn round the post.
Inverness should have taken the lead in the 15th minute when Billy McKay beat the offside trap to latch on to a long ball out of defence and go one-on-one with Jamie MacDonald but the keeper dived low to his left to stop the striker’s weak effort.
Ngoo striker nearly put the Jambos in front a minute later when his glancing header from fellow Liverpool loanee Wilson’s cross from the left smashed into the far post.
Inverness dew first blood in the 49th minute when Andrew Shinnie fired them in front. Doran’s ball across the box broke to the striker just inside the box and he drilled a low angled shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net that gave MacDonald no chance.
Herats were appealing for a penalty a couple of minutes later when Ngoo’s driven cross struck the arm of Ross Draper but referee Euan Norris ignored their pleas. A slack pass back from Draper then almost let Ngoo in but Reguero was out of his box quickly to clear the danger.
However, Hearts were soon on level terms when debutant Ngoo scored in the 66th minute. The striker spun to blast a left-foot volley beyond Reguero from eight yards as he connected with Wilson’s header across goal.
Ten minutes later the Jambos were reduced to ten men as Robinson was shown a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Owain Tudur-Jones.
McKay missed a golden chance to win the game for Inverness in extra time. Shane Sutherland beat the offside trap and squared for McKay but, with the goal gapping, he took a touch allowing the Hearts defence to recover and keeper MacDonald made a fine block to deny his strike. AFP