Hearts manager Daniel Stendel insists his return to Germany and decision to give the squad Christmas Day off had no bearing in the 2-0 defeat to Edinburgh rivals Hibernian.
A first half Martin Boyle brace handed the Leith outfit all three points at Tynecastle and left their Gorgie counterparts rooted to the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Eyebrows were raised before the match after Stendel returned to his homeland for personal business after the weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Hamilton and left assistant Andy Kirk to oversee the team’s preparation for the derby.
The former Barnsley boss also gave the players Wednesday off despite playing a day later.
However, Stendel, who is still searching for a first win as manager following four games in charge, dismissed any notion that it was a factor in his team’s 12th defeat of the season.
He said: “I cannot and would not explain (the reason for going back to Germany), it was long (agreed) before I signed here.
“I want to help and I’m sure I can help this club and (owner) Ann Budge.
“I know it’s a difficult situation but when you see the game it was not the reason we did not win.”
Asked about giving the squad time off, he replied: “You think it’s the reason we didn’t win today? I think no.
“In the end when you win you can say anything and it’s all right, when you lose it’s all bad.
“I take the responsibility for the decisions and I take the responsibility for the game but some things I cannot change.
“I cannot play, I cannot score, I cannot defend.
“We tried to improve and I think you can see some players are improving and some players maybe not.
“I hope we can change some things but at the moment we need to work hard and change the result on Sunday against Aberdeen.
“If we play like today I cannot believe that we do not win in the next games.”
Hearts were playing catch-up after just six minutes when Boyle coolly volleyed Scott Allan’s hopeful cross into the net from close range .
The playmaker then raced clear of the Hearts defence to slot past Joel Pereira in the 31st minute.
Hearts dominated possession in the second half but good goalkeeping by Ofir Marciano and poor finishing ensured the visitors left with a clean sheet.
Hibs manager Jack Ross was naturally thrilled with two-goal hero Boyle’s match-winning contribution.
He said: “He’s been really good since I came into the job.
“I was fortunate that that coincided with his return to full fitness.
“We have used him in different roles and today was the first time we have used him through the middle.
“We thought that would suit what we would come up against today.
“He’s a good player.
“People talk about him being quick and offering that threat, which he does, but he’s also a good footballer and he’s a terrific finisher and I think he showed that with his two goals as well.”
Ross, whose side travel to Livingston on Sunday, added: “I think these types of fixtures are all about winning, so naturally we are pleased.
“It’s a happy changing room. I think we did both sides of the game well today.
“We played well in the first half and when we got ourselves ahead we had to be resilient and defend well and I thought we did that well throughout the match.”
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