Hearts humbled at Tannadice
It all went wrong at Tannadice this afternoon as Hearts were comfortably defeated by an on-song Dundee United by three goals - with no reply.
Csaba Laszlo named an unchanged side from the one that ran out winners against Inverness at Tynecastle the week before but the big news was the return of Bruno Aguiar to the squad after a lengthy injury and also new signing Mike Tullberg, who was still to make his competitive debut for the club.
Hearts were the victors the last time the two sides met at Tynecastle in March but who could forget the previous game at Tanadice in January? The less said about that the better! Craig Levein's men went into the match off the back of an away win at Pitodrie so both sides were poised and confident ahead of this one.
The rain teamed down at Tanadice prior to kick off and conditions were blustery, there was a definite feel of autumn in the air. Dundee United had the better of the opening exchanges and could have gone ahead in the opening five minutes when an in swinging corner from Conway was met by Jon Daly who thundered the ball off the woodwork. Hearts could feel lucky not to be one behind.
Kello was the hero for Hearts and made two or three great saves in the opening half. A looping header from Scott Robertson almost caught the Slovakian off guard but he regained his composure brilliantly to tip the ball over the bar.
Hearts only noteworthy chance came after a good exchange between Stewart and Mole on the edge of the box which set up a shooting opportunity, which Mole took and saw deflected for a corner. A string of corners from Hearts followed this, but in truth they continued to lack a real cutting edge up front.
Dundee United continued to create chances and it was no real surprise when the eventually took the lead. Stewart was penalised for a challenge around 35 yards from goal and Craig Conway stepped up to smash a brilliant free-kick past the helpless Kello.
Hearts didn't look the same team as last week and were struggling to create anything clear cut; there was definitely a lack of spark to the Jambos. Mikoliunas and Kingston looked lively but just couldn't find a way to penetrate the United defence. The goal had spurred the home side on and they almost went two up before the break when a superb strike from Gomis had Kello beaten but fortunately for Hearts the shot rattled the top of the bar for the second time in the match. Hearts needed a change and they needed it fast.
Both teams returned unchanged after half time and you could only think that Laszlo would make a change after seeing the way Hearts started the second half.
Unfortunately this plan backfired as the Jambos started the second half the way they finished the first and within five minutes of the re-start found themselves two behind. United played an inviting ball into the penalty area and Jon Daly was left unmarked and with bags of time to control the ball and fire past Kello who almost got enough on it to keep it out but fortune didn't favour the Slovakian this time.
Laszlo had seen enough and introduced Nade and Tullberg in quick succession and Nade in particular looked to shake things up when he came on. The problems were not solved though and just as Hearts looked to be making the right steps towards getting back into the game, it all went wrong and it was game set and match. Scott Robertson was the home hero netting their third of the match. Another long ball over the heads of the defence came to Karipids to clear but the Greek midfielder's header rebounded off the head off the midfielder and past Kello who could do nothing about it.
The game started to get a bit messy after the third goal and tempers were definitely fraying for Hearts. The introduction of the two strikers had been cancelled out by that third goal which sucker punched the Jambos. United were content to sit back and frustrate Hearts and see the game out. Frustration got the better of Jonsson who got his marching orders after his second yellow of the half.
The loss of Jonsson all but signalled the end for the Jambos. Mikoliunas had arguably Hearts only effort on goal in the second half on 85 minutes, a but that came back off the bar. It was not Hearts day.
Another trip to Tanadice that needs to deleted from memory and the first time that Hearts haven't scored here since December 1997.
Dundee United: Zaluska; Dillon, Wilkie, Dods, Flood (Swanson 89), Robertson, Daly, Sandaza (O'Donovan 59), Conway, Gomis, Dixon. Subs not used: McGovern, Grainger, Kenneth, Bauben, Goodwillie.
Hearts: Kello; Jonsson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace; Kingston; Karipidis, Stewart (Palazuelos 68); Mikoliunas; Ksanavicius (Nade 53); Mole (Tullberg 59). Booked: Stewart, Jonsson, Nade. Sent off: Jonsson. Subs not used: Aguiar, Balogh, Thomson, Rapnik.
Referee: Dougie McDonald
Top man: Marian Kello