Date: 30th November 2008 at 8:15pm
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Well, let’s just hope that after this match the myth that the gap between the Old Firm and the rest of the clubs in this league is widening can be put to bed.

Anyone who watched Rangers yesterday (and I hope that all of the other SPL managers did just that) should realise that they’re every bit as average now as they were three years ago when they finished third behind Hearts, and I sincerely hope that in the coming weeks, some of the inferiority complexes that have existed within Scottish football for too long can be overcome.

Make no mistake about it, Hearts may have won yesterday’s match to make it five victories in a row, but if they’d had the personnel to really have a go at Rangers for the full 90 minutes (most notably a quality strike partner for Christian Nade), they could easily have won this match by a good few goals.

I don’t think I can ever recall such a fragile-looking Rangers defence, and it probably does say it all when their best player in that area is nearly 39 years of age.

Sadly the way that Hearts tend to line up these days dictates that opposing defences often have a bit of time on the ball, which is a pity as when they were put under pressure yesterday they were making mistakes all over the place.

Still, let’s focus on the positive news that Csaba Laszlo’s team are continuing to return positive results against the odds, with this one likely to have given them most confidence of all.

Looking back at the game itself, it was played at a hell of a pace at times, but when you actually try to think of the football played, there wasn’t really all that much on offer.

What football WAS played I would have to say came in the main from Hearts, who when they were able to get Aguiar, Kingston and to a lesser extent Nade on the ball, looked capable of opening Rangers up fairly easily.

Rangers on the other hand were very disappointing. For some reason they didn’t appear interested in using their midfield, which was their loss as if they had they may just have gotten some success by making more use of the talented Mendes and Ferguson.

As it was they just fired high ball after high ball to Kris Boyd, who was unable to get any change out of Berra and Zaliukas. Indeed Boyd’s only contribution were the incredible number of fouls he committed – I counted 13 but there could well have been more, and a good few of those were effectively forearm smashes into the face of Berra. Quite how he stayed on the park only referee Dougie McDonald will know, but in the end he did Hearts a favour as the striker was frankly hopeless.

Hearts took the lead after 20 minutes. Aguiar’s exquisite free-kick into the penalty area found the head of Berra, whose downward header was blocked but not held by MacGregor. A mini-strumash ensued, with the ball eventually breaking to Zaliukas on his lonesome at the back post, and he gleefully swept the ball into the empty net to make it 1-0.

Just three minutes later Hearts were in dreamland when, after another accurate Aguiar delivery, Larry Kingston stooped to head home the second after MacGregor had again failed to hold a close range header. 2-0.

At this stage Rangers were seriously on the ropes and every one of their defenders looked nervous on the ball, but they were thrown a lifeline before half-time when, following Adam’s free-kick, Boyd’s header was deflected off the bar and straight into the path of the onrushing Karipidis, whose momentum took him and ball into the net.

Half time 2-1

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first i.e. lots of high ball from Weir, Whittaker and Bougherra in search of Boyd, lots of elbows in the face from said donkey, and the occasional piece of football when Hearts could break forward down the wings.

Larry Kingston came closest to extending Hearts’ lead when he surged forward just before the hour mark and tested MacGregor from 20 yards – the ball bounced treacherously in front of the ‘keeper who managed to safely push it round the post.

Lee Wallace then gave Rangers hope when he stupidly lunged at Chris Burke from the back to receive a second yellow card. His first booking had been very harsh given what had been let go elsewhere on the field, but even still he should have had the sense to know what he could and couldn’t subsequently get away with, and Dougie McDonald was never going to let this sort of opportunity go.

As a result it was backs-to-the-wall stuff for the remainder of the match for Hearts, but thankfully instead of trying to pass us off the field to maximise their extra man, Rangers still continued to lump high ball after high ball into the Hearts penalty area, and although there were a couple of mini-scares, the defence generally held firm very well.

In the end it was a very hard fought three points for Hearts, and a result that should give everyone at the club a great lift. However, expectations need to be realistic – we may be on a good run but the glaring frailties in the Hearts team are still very much in evidence, so I do hope that the fans can stay sober and stay off the team’s back if they do happen to lose say at Motherwell next week.

A great few weeks for the club though – let’s see how long they can keep it going….

Player Ratings

MacDonald 6
In all honesty had very little to do. Not quite sure what happened at the Rangers goal but it looks as though he was wrong-footed by a slight deflection. Other than that, handling was pretty decent when required.

Neilson 7
Had his obligatory horror pass just before half-time, but I thought Robbie had a really solid game down the right.

Wallace 5
Was having a decent enough game before he stupidly lunged at Chris Burke to receive a second booking, which put Hearts on the back-foot thereafter.

Berra 8
At long last appears to be growing into his captain’s role. Arguably his best performance of the season.

Zaliukas 7
Like Berra was in the thick of the action throughout due to Rangers’ tactics, but like his captain had a fine match.

Karipidis 5
A little out-of-sorts for me – fought hard but often wasn’t hard enough in the tackle. Very unfortunate for the OG though.

Palazuelos 4
The clear weak link in the Hearts team on the day – too lightweight to be in the centre of midfield against physical opponents like Rangers.

Kingston 7
As many of us expected, did much better than he has for most of the season against higher profile opposition. Along with Aguiar our most creative player for the hour he was on the park.

Driver 5
This is maybe harsh but I thought he had a disappointing afternoon. Has the ability to make a nonsense of the likes of Broadfoot and Bougherra, but although he had opportunities, he was found wanting on the day.

Aguiar 7
Probably the best football player on the pitch. Was disappointed to see him subbed but he did put a pile of work in and was probably knackered!

Nade 6
Really needed more support than he was given. Won most of his aerial balls but had no-one to flick the ball onto. Another decent enough shift though.

Jonsson 4
Worked hard for last half hour.

Cesnauskis 2
Late sub.
Late sub.

 

16 Replies to “Hearts 2-1 Rangers”

  • I think you hit the nail on the head there, Mr H – Rangers massively contributed to their own defeat by not playing a passing game through Ferguson. No idea if that was down to Walter or the players – but who cares !! However I disagree with your opening paragraph about the gulf between the OF and the rest – you only have to look at the goals scored this season…. Celtic 40, Rangers 35, everyone else 22 or less. On any day, there’s a decent chance we’ll beat one the OF in a single game, but not over a season. But if we could put Robbo, Colquhoun, Hartley Skacel, Fulton, Cameron, Pressley, Aguiar and Webster all in the same team, I’d agree with you that we’d give them a real run for their money over a season !!!

  • With you on this one sh. I remember the Austin screamer against Celtic being hailed as the moment things would change. I remember Bednar’s goal for Burley’s team against Rangers and the end of the season. Sorry but without serious investment the club will still be in a fight for a Europa cup place it may not win.

  • i agree tht for you to be challenging again and winning tropheys you’ll need investment but will you get it no i am afraid

  • I’m not arguing with the stats guys, but I’m questioning what they actually say. To me they say that clubs like ourselves, Hibs, Aberdeen and whoever are still seeing games against Rangers and Celtic as games against mightily strong clubs rather than the average teams that they are. Half the teams in the SPL are beaten before the match even starts because of this mentality. Hearts on Saturday took a different approach and in the end despite being pretty average themselves, showed Rangers up for what they are i.e. not any better. If everyone else did this I think you’d see a vast difference in some of these stats…….only my view of course!

  • As all of us here are only too aware though MrH, in order to sustain any kind of championship winning side in Scotland – you don’t just have to be better than the OF – you have to be significantly better. Hearts proved that in 2005/06. We were the best team in Scotland on the park by some way, but Celtic still won the league by a canter, because of dodgy refereeing (particularly on NYD), a sustained hate campaign by the media, and our own stupidity. We can (and thankfully still do) beat the OF in a one-off game, and we might even take more from them than they do against us over a season’s fixtures, but there is a lot more to winning the league in Scotland than that as we all know. For what it’s worth, there are more teams now who are willing to have a go at them – Dundee Utd and Hibs amongst them, but just ask Craig Levein what he thinks of matches against Rangers….

  • When Aberdeen achieved so much in the ?80s I don?t think any of us fully realised what an astonishing feat it was. They were a truly great team with exceptional individual players and arguably the best manager in the history of the game. We can only assume that their quality (and mentality) was such that the SFA, the media and referees could not do enough to stem the tide. Their success was relatively short lived of course.

  • Think about the possible senario that all the SPL teams play their games in a positive fashion and try to win every game they play… then what? do these external factors really have a huge effect on the teams? they would be spread their discrimination so far and wide that if UEFA didnt notice then its laugable. every team should be trying to do what Hearts have been doing recently. What i noticed is that individual teams have been beat down by media, etc (what has already been mentioned) when they are challenging but what if the majority of clubs entered their games with winning mentalities? Does anyone think Hull enters their games with a losing mentality? they believe they can win and even though their players would never be picked by any other club in the league, they manage to get results (sure they go on bad runs but what is a bad run? its the losing mentality getting to the team). Csaba believes in his team and he plays accordingly…

  • I see what you are getting at, Mr H. However for us to get a positive mentality when playing the OF, we’d also have to achieve a “superiority complex” when playing Motherwell, Dundee Utd, Aberdeen, Hibs etc – in other words, firmly believe that we can go out and score lots of goals against these teams. I think we had that in 2005/06 … and for part of the season in 1986 and 1998. Right now, we don’t have that, mainly becasue we don’t have the players who could score lots of goals !! However Csaba sounds like a shrewd cookie who knows what he wants – so who’s to say we won’t develop that sort of attitude in a couple of years time ?

  • TJ – I think that all clubs do have a positive attitude… the players are professional and they want to do their best. But it doesn’t take a great deal in a game to swing it in the OF’s favour. A few missed opportunities here, a couple of inconsistent decisions there, a booking or sending off here or a penalty there. It’s a snowball effect. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious, but most of the time it’s pretty subtle & cumulative over a match or season. Plus there is the very real issue that these clubs have a lot more money than the rest, and can afford big squads of international quality players… and it only takes one of them to create something to score a goal. We’re not facing the Laudrups, the Gascoignes or the Larssons any more (and arguably never will again) – but that almost doesn’t matter because the overall standard is lower. SH – I agree with you, Csaba is a smart cookie and given time, support, patience, a sprinkling of luck & a little money I think he’s got what it takes to bring “suksis” to Hearts within a couple of years. But we’re a good distance away from that yet. The OF still rule the roost… for now… unfortunately 🙁

  • What i was saying was about losing and winning mentalities which are different in my opinion. Sure all teams have positive attitudes but that does not mean they have the winning attitude. Do you think St. Mirren enters a game at Ibrox with the expectation to win? I don’t. This likely influences how they play. Maybe at times but not on a regular basis… Why fully exert youself if you don’t believe there will be something positive in exchange?

  • I suppose it’s the difference between believing you CAN win versus believing you WILL win. I think at kick-off time, Hamilton and St.Mirren players believe they CAN win against the team they’re playing (whoever that is). However, they also to have to contend with what they are told – by the manager, by the media, by the bookies, by the 40,000+ raving loonies in the stands all around them, that they’re wrong. Levein used to get a lot of stick from the Hearts fans because he played too defensively & conservatively against the OF. Then one time he tried ‘going for it’ – and we got hammered. It almost felt like he was proving a point. Not enough managers are willing to stick their necks out and have a go… and that is an inherent problem in Scottish football IMO, probably more endemic than the mentality of the players.

  • Agreed – Jimmy Calderwood at Aberdeen is the biggest example of this losing mentality – that guy is in awe of Rangers which is why his teams rarely get a result against them. Talking of Levein, I once heard that he had young Graham Weir practically by the throat at half-time in a home match with Celtic because he’s merely made his opponent Bobo Balde look average, when he should have made him look ‘like the donkey he is’! He then supposedly started slaughtering the whole Celtic team one by one pointing out their weaknesses. Hearts ended up winning that match 2-1. Losers’ mentality?!

  • Stockport its not just about refereeing decisions ,one the reasons aberdeen were so successfull was they continually moaned @ the ref willie miller especially (what a player) they also had a fantastic manager & players & the BOTTLE to dig in when things were not going well.With ref to hearts 2005/06 yes you were in a great position but you have only yourselves to blame changing managers during the season come on now thats stupidity especially when your unbeaten & that was after playing both celtic & rangers.By the way must apologise for think it was season 59/60 think celtic beat hearts last game of the season to give rangers the title unbeleivable

  • Dannybhoy, yes granted, we shot ourselves in the foot (courtesy of Romanov) several times that year – as I said. There were many reasons why that year didn’t pan out as it perhaps should have done – Hearts’ own backroom stupidity was a major aspect. The others I mentioned were the media hate campaign, and a string of bad refereeing decisions at crucial stages of the season. Another (which I didn’t mention) was the purchase of an entire team of mostly ordinary players during the January transfer window. Wasn’t alive in 59/60 though mate, so that season didn’t really affect me too much! 🙂

  • i was not alive either but i could not believe it when i read about it think hearts only needed a draw as rangers lost there final game thank goodness i was not alive !!!!!!!!!!

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