Driver nets the winner as Hearts go third
The importance of this encounter in the race for Euro places probably mitigated against a fast, flowing start to the game and, indeed, the early stages were predictably scrappy, the only real goalmouth action coming from the many free-kicks awarded in around each penalty area by referee Mr Richmond.
Both sides have experts from those positions, of course, but Charlie Mulgrew for the visitors and the home side's Bruno Aguiar proved unable to tease early deliveries into dangerous areas. Scott Severin did try a more direct route from fully thirty yards, but that effort was charged down as was Aguiar's own long-range attempt at the other end with barely fifteen minutes gone.
Hearts were showing a pleasing willingness to get the ball down and try to play out from the back, but their accuracy let them down on 19 minutes and led immediately to an opening goal for the Dons. Christos Karipidis was the man playing the errant pass, intended for Robbie Neilson but picked up instead by Mulgrew deep inside his own half. The former Celtic man looked up and delivered a high, hanging diagonal ball into the box from half-way and, as Janos Balogh and Eggert Jonsson looked on, Darren Mackie nipped into the space between them to score with a beautifully-controlled volley into the net.
The home side almost got back on level terms a couple of minutes later when Wallace made ground on the left and delivered the ball low into the box. Nade slipped, but Glen was sharp enough to turn and shoot, unfortunately straight at Jamie Langfield in the visitors' goal.
Bruno Aguiar then robbed Mark Kerr in midfield but booted his left foot shot way over the crossbar, a trajectory that was then mimicked by Michael Stewart's half volley when Aguiar's half-cleared corner fell kindly for him at the edge of the area. Lee Miller then forced Balogh into a fine point-blank block after the big striker controlled Mulgrew's free- kick inside the area, but a second goal for the Dons at that point would have been harsh on the hosts who were pushing hard for an equaliser.
David Obua might have got it with an enterprising run infield and a great left foot shot which rose just too high before it was securely held by Langfield. Then Gary Glen again showed the instinctive side of his game when he moved on to a perceptive chip into the box from Aguiar. Again the youngster's shot was first-time and on target; again Langfield was perfectly positioned to clutch the ball at the post.
Mulgrew then brushed the post with a free-kick and Tynecastle breathed a sigh of relief that we were going in only a goal behind at the break. The players had other ideas though and, right on the stroke of half time, conjured up an equaliser that was as a sublime as it was deserved.
Aguiar was the architect, this time ignoring the easier ball to either wing, preferring instead an audacious chip to the far post with the outside of his right boot. Obua was the target, and when he nodded the ball down, Nade was on hand to head sharply past the exposed Langfield. Great goal.
The second half began where the first had left off, the home side buzzing intently around Jamie Langfield's penalty area. Obua was the first to break clear with some neat footwork on the left-hand side, which allowed him to make space for a low, hard cross into the middle. Sadly, though, there were no takers for the tempting ball.
Glen and Stewart then combined nicely at the edge of the area, but the youngster's attempt to ease ball through to the supporting Nade was anticipated and intercepted by the ever-alert Zander Diamond. Nade was then booked for a late foul on the defender before Ricky Foster was similarly sanctioned for a late foul on the Frenchman, an offence born surely of frustration after the Dons full-back had squandered a decent attacking position deep inside the Hearts half.
It had developed into an enthralling game, both sides fully intent on victory and showing they were capable of some nice football at times, as when Aguiar and Glen once more combined well midway inside the Aberdeen half.
The Portuguese playmaker slipped the ball neatly behind Foster to match the youngster's willing thrust and, although Glen was fouled, the ball sprang clear for the supporting Obua. When Mr Richmond played an astute advantage, the Ugandan wasted no time in pinging a low ball into the centre. Although densely populated with defenders, no one took charge of the situation, and when the ball bobbled through to Driver at the far post, the Englishman showed good composure to bundle a first-time effort past Langfield's despairing dive.
Jimmy Calderwood immediately introduced his attacking substitutes in an attempt to rescue at least a point from the game, but although the visitors threw everything they had at Balogh's goal, they found the home keeper and his defenders in resolute form.
Even then, though, Hearts were somewhat fortunate that Chris Maguire failed to convert either of the two good chances that came his way before the end. His first effort was only half-hit and trundled just wide after he cut inside from the touchline; the second, though, was as sweetly struck a volley as you are ever likely to see. Luckily for Hearts, it slammed back into play off the base of the post.
Hearts: Balogh; Neilson, Karipidis, Jonsson, Wallace; Obua, Stewart, Aguiar, Driver; Glen (Palazuelos 80), Nade (Mrowiec 90). Booked: Nade, Driver. Subs not used: MacDonald, Cesnauskis, Elliot, Thomson, Templeton,
Aberdeen: Langfield; Foster, Severin, Diamond, Mulgrew; Young (Considine 75), Vidal, Kerr, Duff (Maguire 75); Mackie (Wright 78), Miller. Booked: Foster. Subs not used: Bossu, Stewart, Paton, Pawlett.
Referee: Charlie Richmond
Top man: David Obua
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