Hearts 0-2 Rangers: Goals from Alfredo Morelos and Joe Aribo secure victory in bad-tempered contest as Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side extend lead at the top of SPL
- Rangers beat Hearts 2-0 to go seven points clear in the Scottish Premiership
- Alfredo Morelos scored the first goal, with Joe Aribo doubling Rangers’ lead
- The win continues Gers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s unbeaten run
When Steven Gerrard quit Aston Villa it felt like a threat to the Rangers season. Six games later it’s beginning to feel like an outright blessing in disguise.
Before Gerrard’s untimely departure something ailed Scotland’s champions. They lost to Dundee United and lost a late equaliser home to Hearts. They shipped another two points against Aberdeen, salvation coming from a late penalty kick.
Under Giovanni van Bronckhurst the loss of blood has been stemmed. Faced by a challenging schedule of away fixtures they have now travelled to Hibs, Livingston and Tynecastle and won. Their place in the last 32 of the Europa League secure, victory over third-place Hearts came after an impressive point against Lyon on Thursday night.
Alfredo Morelos helped Rangers defeat Hearts to keep up their recent strong form
Criticised by Gerrard for failing to score enough goals, Alfredo Morelos took his tally to four in his last five with a clinical strike. The importance of Joe Aribo to this Rangers team, meanwhile, can’t be overstated. An early contender for player of the season the skilled midfielder claimed his fourth in five games with a superb finish to put Rangers two up after 13 minutes.
For Hearts a day of abject frustration was summed up by a second yellow card for winger Josh Ginnelly nine minutes from time. Twelve points adrift of the league leaders hopes of a three-horse race now look forlorn.
As in their recent defeat to Celtic Robbie Neilson’s side had chances to claim a point and came up short. They struck the woodwork twice in the second half while Liam Boyce missed two terrific opportunities to claim a lifeline.
A former pupil of Tynecastle High School Allan McGregor taught Hearts a lesson. When chances come up against Rangers you really need to take them.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Hearts 4-2-3-1: Gordon 7; Moore 4, Souttar 5, Halkett 6, Kingsley 6; Haring 5, Devlin 5 (Gnanduillet 86 1); Ginnelly 6, McKay 6, MacKay-Steven 5 (Woodburn 74 1); Boyce 6
Subs not used: Stewart, Walker, McEneff, Halliday, Cochrane
Bookings: Gordon, Halkett, Devlin, Haring
Sent off: Ginnelly
Manager: Robbie Neilson
Rangers 4-2-3-1: McGregor 8; Barisic 6, Bassey 6, Goldson 6, Tavernier 5; Aribo 8, Kamara 7; Kent 7, Arfield 6, Sakala 7 (Lundstram 83 1); Morelos 7 (Wright 72 1)
Subs not used: McLaughlin, Hagi, Davis, Patterson, Bacuna
Bookings: Tavernier, Aribo, McGregor, Barisic, Kent
Goals: Morelos 9, Aribo 13
Manager: Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Referee: Nick Walsh
Before this controlled victory the Ibrox side had gone three games without a win against Hearts. Yet the tactical tweaks made by van Bronckhurst – Fashion Sakala on the right flank looks inspired – changed things here.
The home side will rue their failure to take an early lead. With three minutes on the clock John Souttar’s long ball over the top seemed to take an age to come down. When it finally bounced up for Liam Boyce the striker tried to lift over McGregor and didn’t get didn’t get quite enough on it.
The keeper brilliantly tipped the ball over the bar and a pattern of the game was now established.
There were just nine minutes played when the visitors scored against the run of play with their first attempt on goal.
With Michael Smith injured Hearts were forced to field Taylor Moore at right-back. With Ryan Kent in irresistible form he struggled to keep up. Kent’s cross towards the back post created the opener, falling at the back post for Sakala. The Zambian ghosted past Cammy Devlin towards the byeline and cut the ball back for Morelos to slam it into the net.
Suddenly Rangers were all over Hearts. A second goal looked a question of when and not if.
It came through a moment of brilliance from Joe Aribo, a player staking a strong claim to be the best in the country. A long Connor Goldson ball over the top of the Hearts defence was taken down with a sublime first touch. The second saw the Nigerian international thunder a superb left foot drive past Craig Gordon. It was a goal of simplicity and, for Hearts, utter devastation.
A cauldron of seething expectation before kick-off Tynecastle was now a stunned and silent place. A greatly reduced rump of Rangers fans belted out ‘We shall not be moved.’ It was hard to offer up an argument.
Despite the early miss Liam Boyce offered the best chance of a Heart fightback. The striker spun with his back to goal and thumped a shot into the side-netting. When Josh Ginnelly rattled another right foot shot wide of the post, the winger felt the ball had taken a nick off a defender. His protests earned a booking and summed up the growing frustration of Hearts.
Foiled by McGregor in the early minutes Boyce was done again when he latched onto a Devlin pass and hammered a fizzing shot at goal. For all the justified talk of Craig Gordon’s season of excellence, the Rangers keeper was savouring a return home turf.
Hearts knew they needed something quickly. An early goal in the second half and we might have had a game on our hands.
Gary Mackay-steven’s first time left foot effort towards top corner tipped over by McGregor.
Scorer of an own goal in Lyon, Calvin Bassey then almost made it two in two games when he sliced a Josh Ginnelly clearance off the underside of his own crossbar, the loose ball bouncing to safety. It was a huge let-off for Rangers.
The finish line in sight the visitors could have put the game out of sight. Determined not to be outdone by McGregor, Craig Gordon produced three top class saves in a short space of time.
The first bravely denied Morelos a second goal from a one on one. The second was a brilliant stop after the lightning quick Sakala burst clear and unleashed a low strike at goal.
The third came from the kind of dazzling Rangers breakaway which unravelled Hearts time and again. Aribo and Kent’s quick passing put Morelos through again. Gordon blocked again with his legs before the Colombian cut the ball back for Arfield to drag a superb chance wide from eight yards.
So long as the score stayed at 2-0 Hearts retained some measure of hope. Against Celtic and Rangers, however, a pattern is developing for Robbie Neilson’s team. They apply pressure, they make chances and they fail to take them.
The maroons had two close things. After 65 minutes Gary Mackay-Steven retrieved an overhit Ginnelly cross towards the back post and teed up a glorious chance for Boyce. The striker blazed another wonderful chance over the bar from 10 yards – appeals for a Goldson handball falling on deaf ears.
A serial scorer of spectacular free-kicks against Ross County, St Mirren and Motherwell, Stephen Kingsley almost claimed the biggest scalp of all when he crashed a dipping effort against the crossbar from all of 25 yards. But for bad luck Hearts will feel they’d have had none at all.
Booked for dissent in the first half Ginnelly’s game ended with a second booking after a shoving and pusing match with Borna Barisic nine minutes from time. McGregor’s double save from substitute Ben Woodburn then the luckless Boyce was the final confirmation that, for Hearts, it was one of those days.
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