Quality goals bag three points for Jambos
Two better goals from those in maroon you will (probably) struggle to see. Bruno Aguiar's stunning free kick and Andrew Driver's marvellous solo goal ensured that Hearts came back from a sloppy goal down to take all three points for the first time (in a non-bottom six encounter) since 2005. Falkirk contributed to a lively 90 minutes but ultimately were outclassed by a technically superior home side. Hearts played some great stuff at times, and whilst the Bairns were on hand to administer a last-minute scare, the result was the correct one.
Falkirk scored after three minutes of this fixture in September, but we had to wait until the fifth minute here for a meaningful effort, when Nade battled to tee up Bruno for a stray shot at goal. Battling was going to be needed today, as Lee Wallace exemplified moments later, when he tussled with Bullen on the by-line before racing clear and laying it back for Nade. Both his and Eggert Jonsson's attempts were blocked, and the Bairns escaped.
Aguiar kept up the pace with a beautiful volley from Nade's flick on, which went just over. We were going to have to take advantage of these moments when we were completely on top.
As proved when Falkirk scored after fifteen minutes. Zaliukas was caught out of position over the halfway line, and Higdon capitalised to send Lovell clear with a beautiful through-ball. The ex-Dundee and Aberdeen man was marginally ahead of the onrushing Balogh and he prodded it past the keeper, watching in delight as it rolled slowly over the line, despite the best efforts of Wallace.
So, gloom descended temporarily, at least until Bruno Aguiar pulled us level with a beautiful, near-perfect freekick just three minutes after! Nade was impeded around thirty yards out, and the Portuguese midfielder made absolutely no mistake with an exemplary example of how to find the corner, leaving Flinders stranded. It was no less than Hearts deserved.
Despite all the dominance, Falkirk were still capable of exploiting a weakness, such as when Patrick Cregg found himself in space to the right of Balogh's goal. The shot was blocked, but it was a timely reminder of how things can alter in a second. But nothing much altered in the game for the rest of the half.
Moments into the second period, there was a handball shout against Lee Bullen, although referee Mr Smith was in an excellent position to rule it out. The Hearts fans were already slightly irked from his decision to book Lee Wallace when a similar challenge just after from Chris Mitchell was met with nothing more than a stern lecture. Mitchell again committed a cynical tackle on Wallace and again escaped with nothing.
A great run down the left channel from Driver enabled the tricky winger to play it into Karipidis. Kari's first touch flicked the ball up, and again there was a shout for handball. It went unheeded as Kari sliced a left foot effort that beat Flinders and looked set to nestle into the corner, but ultimately travelled narrowly wide.
We didn't have much longer to wait to take the lead. Andrew Driver scored, quite simply, the Hearts goal of the season thus far, and seeing as we already had a contender in this very game from Aguiar, that is saying something. He dispossessed two Falkirk players near the halfway line, pressed forward, beat the other two defenders, rounded Flinders and rolled it into the empty net. Written words do not do it justice - think of Ricardo Fuller's wonderful solo goal against Motherwell nearly seven years ago, without quite as much frenetic pace about it.
Although the game was by no means over, Driver's goal was a fresh injection of confidence. That said, Falkirk had finally worked out that Aguiar should be closed down at every opportunity, and as a result the game gradually became tighter. Obua, on for Jonsson straight after the second goal, still looked a bit at odds with the Scottish game, although he was reading the game better and showing glimpses of his undoubted ability.
In the eightieth minute, Chris Mitchell almost scored in bizzarre fashin when his attempted cross almost looped over Balogh, but the Hungarian covered it well. The resulting corner saw Aguiar clear off the line from Bullen's header. It was getting tense at the death.
And, in the second minute of injury time, the game should have been level. The Bairns were pushing everyone forward and exposed some serious gaps at the back, building up an excellent move. The cross in from the right found Michael Higdon and his header nestled away from the stranded Balogh and into the far corner. Well, nearly. We all thought that was the outcome, but somehow the ball bounced back off the advertising boards instead. That last piece of action went our way, and Hearts rode out the remaining minute to take all three points and open up a clear lead in third place.
Hearts: Balogh; Neilson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace; Jonsson (Obua, 59), Palazuelos, Karipidis, Driver; Aguiar; Nade (Makela, 90). Booked: Wallace. Subs not used: MacDonald, Mole, Thomson, Templeton, Brown.
Falkirk: Flinders; Bullen, Cregg (Barrett, 66), Barr, Mitchell, McCaffrey, Riera, McBride, Lovell (M Stewart, 84), Higdon, O'Brien. Booked: Riera, Mitchell. Subs not used: Olejnik, Lynch, J Stewart, Moffat, Staunton.
Referee: Eddie Smith
Top man: Lee Wallace
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