Hearts were defeated 2-1 by FC Zurich in the Europa League this eveningLawrence Shankland put the Scottish side ahead from the spot in the first halfAdrian Guerrero and Blerim Dzemaili hit back in Sweden before the breakHearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon kept the score down as Hearts struggledThe second leg will take place next Thursday for a place in the group stage  

Scottish football’s travelling woes in Europe continued tonight as Hearts were beaten by FC Zurich in the first leg of the Europa League play-off round.

This was the fourth attempt by a club from the Premiership to take something tangible from overseas so far this season, but just like Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell before them, they came back empty-handed.

It briefly looked promising. Lawrence Shankland put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot but the Swiss champions responded with two quick-fire goals from Adrian Guerrero and Blerim Dzemaili before the break.

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

Lawrence Shankland had originally put Hearts ahead from the penalty spot on the night

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

FC Zurich hit back through Adrian Guerrero and Blerim Dzemaili to win the game 2-1

The margin of the scoreline could have been wider as Hearts rode their luck in the second half.

They will at least have the chance to avenge this defeat at what should be a packed-out Tynecastle next Thursday when a guaranteed £3million windfall for reaching the Europa League group stage will be at stake.

The consolation prize will be progress to the Europa Conference League groups should they come up short.

Zurich have not had their problems to seek at home this season after picking up only two points from five in their bid to retain their title, but Franco Foda’s side were tidy on the ball and dangerous going forward.

Despite a vocal phalanx of Zurich fans making their presence felt behind one of the goals, it was by no means a hostile environment for the visitors.

Zurich can usually rely on in excess of 10,000 fans at their home games but with the first leg taking place in St Gallen, 55 miles to the west of Switzerland’s largest city, due to their own ground being double-booked with a music concert, a crowd of 5,347 watched on. That figure included around 1,000 supporters who made the trip from Edinburgh.

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

Adrian Guerrero (left) equalised for Zurich in the first half after Shankland’s opener

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

Blerim Dzemaili (left) also scored for Zurich before the break, with Hearts unable to equalise

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson opted for a more defensive-minded line-up for the clash. Out went forwards Alan Forrest and Liam Boyce despite the pair having been key figures in the team’s good start to domestic action.

Right wing-back Nathaniel Atkinson came in while Stephen Kingsley was handed his first start of the season after a hamstring issue. Peter Haring was also restored to the first XI.

There was also a rejig in the Hearts formation, with Barrie McKay occupying a more central role in attack alongside Shankland instead of hugging the touchline.

Neilson, however, was forced into a change inside the first seven minutes when Craig Halkett hobbled off injured. Toby Sibbick was his replacement.

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon was in fine form and kept Hearts in the tie on several occasions

On a pitch that had been greased by torrential rain both before and during the match, underfoot conditions were tricky for both sets of players.

That was probably a factor in a scrappy opening. As the teams sized each other up, there was little flow to the match.

Hearts were solid but conservative in getting numbers up front. Zurich gradually worked their way into the match and started asking questions of the visiting rearguard.

Antonio Marchesano picked up a decent position just outside the box but he sliced an effort wide of goal before Craig Gordon was called into action for the first time.

Dzemaili had plenty of power behind his free-kick and although the effort was straight at the Scotland No 1, Gordon initially spilled the drive before smothering the ball.

Hearts then made their mark when they went ahead in the 22nd minute from the penalty spot. They worked the ball wide to Atkinson and the Australian was stamped on by Ole Selnaes in a clumsy challenge inside the box.

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

Hearts boss Robbie Nielson was left with plenty to ponder at the end of the first leg

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

The second leg will take place in Scotland next Thursday with Hearts looking to bounce back

After an initial delay, Polish referee Bartosz Frankowski pointed to the spot, triggering protests from the Zurich players. Shankland kept his cool from 12 yards, driving a low effort into the bottom left-hand corner despite Yanick Brecher guessing the right way.

Perhaps still furious with the penalty award, Zurich’s response was emphatic as they scored two goals within two minutes.

The manner of the strikes was particularly galling for Neilson. Atkinson was at fault for the equaliser in the 32nd minute. The defender got his bearings all wrong as he got caught under goalkeeper’s Brecher’s long ball out. He ended up looping a header towards his own goal and Guerrero, who was lurking behind him, swivelled and lashed a left-footed volley past Gordon from close range.

Hearts were spooked and conceded again soon after. Haring’s attempt to intercept Guerrero’s low cross teed up Dzemaili and the veteran former Swiss international fired a rising shot into the net from 12 yards.

Good work by McKay created a chance for Jorge Grant inside the box before the half was over but the Englishman got little power behind his drive and Brecher saved.

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

Neilson’s side will enter the Conference League group stages if they lose the tie overall

FC Zurich 2-1 Hearts: Scottish football's travelling woes continue as Hearts join Rangers, Dundee United and Motherwell in losing abroad despite Lawrence Shankland's penalty

1000 Hearts fans made the journey to Sweden in a total attendance of 5,347 in St Gallen

Michael Smith came on for Atkinson after the break and was forced to defend as Zurich created a handful of chances immediately at the start of the second half.

Former Hearts winger Donis Avdijaj had a shot deflected wide by Kye Rowles before Selnaes headed the corner over.

Avdijaj was involved again when he met a cross at the back post but the Austrian headed wide.

Another chance came and went for Zurich in the 67th minute. Guerrero should have scored after being picked out by Avdijaj at the back post but volleyed wide.

Hearts brought on Boyce and Forrest for the closing stages and the latter shot wide.

Gordon then came to Hearts’ rescue in the 90th minute when he kept out Fabian Rohner.

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