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European football is massive for us, says Hearts manager Robbie Neilson

Hearts, who play one of Celtic or Rangers in the final, are now guaranteed a spot in the Europa League whatever happens in the final; Strikes from forward Ellis Simms and defender Stephen Kingsley propelled Hearts into a two-goal lead

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Hearts manager Robbie Nielson says his team can turn their season from good to great by winning the Scottish Cup final after beating rivals Hibernian in the semi-finals.

Qualifying for European football next season has been hailed as "massive" by Hearts boss Robbie Neilson after his side reached the Scottish Cup final.

The Jambos booked a place in the final against either Celtic or Rangers with a hard-fought 2-1 win over 10-man Hibernian at Hampden Park.

Terrific strikes from forward Ellis Simms and defender Stephen Kingsley propelled the Gorgie side into a two-goal lead in 21 minutes before Hibs midfielder Chris Cadden immediately reduced the deficit.

Hearts, who play one of Celtic or Rangers in the final, are now guaranteed a spot in the Europa League whatever happens in the final, having already secured third place in the Premiership. They will play in a Europa League play-off spot with the safety net of the Europa Conference League group stage if they lose it.

Hearts celebrate
Image: Hearts celebrate at full-time

"It is massive for the club," he said.

"Prior to the game we spoke to the players about forgetting about getting to a final, forgetting about European football, it is about winning a derby.

"We won last week with 20 minutes where we could actually enjoy it.

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"Now we have four or five months until the next derby, so we can enjoy the period.

"We have a few days off and then we have five games in the league that we want to win to set us up for the Scottish Cup final.

"It has been a good season. Today makes it a really good one. Can we make it a great one in the final?"

"When you play in derbies it is about winning them, we have managed to do it back-to-back at home and now at Hampden.

"I thought we started well, we got a two-goal lead and then lost a goal quickly, it knocked us out of our stride.

"Hibs were the better team after that, even when they went down to 10 men. We had periods where we kept it but weren't aggressive enough to go and kill the game and even to the last minute were almost hanging on."

Neilson will ensure the money from European football next season will be spent wisely.

"It will make a difference," said the Jambos boss who will "wait and see" the extent of Craig Halkett's injury after he was taken from the field on a stretcher following a tackle from James Scott.

"It is guaranteed money but we have to be careful how we spend that money, we don't want to chuck it all in.

"We have to build the club gradually over the next three, four, five years to get consistent European football and try to challenge for the title."

Hearts players celebrate after Ellis Simms (C) makes it 2-0 during a Scottish Cup Semi-Final
Image: Hearts players celebrate after Ellis Simms (C) makes it 2-0 during a Scottish Cup Semi-Final

Maloney: I couldn't be prouder

Hibs boss Shaun Maloney admitted he had asked his side for a more physical approach following their defeat at Tynecastle last week and had no complaints about Newell's dismissal, saying, "I could understand it".

He said: "We had to. Last weekend there was a physicality and strength to Hearts that we had to match.

"I asked the players to play on that edge. Hearts dominated physically last week but today that wasn't the case.

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Hibernian manager Shaun Maloney said that his team must remember how their loss to rivals Hearts feels and that they cannot let it happen again.

"I thought my team's performance was excellent, as good as it's been in the three or four months I have been here.

"I couldn't be more proud of them and what they gave me, going down to 10 men I thought we were the more dominant team.

"Extremely disappointed for the fans. What you've seen from the support at the end was something I haven't really seen before in a big derby defeat.

"I have never seen a support give a reception to a team that has lost in a derby like we got at the end."

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