Hearts with the ball but Rangers get the win
Hearts went down to Rangers at Ibrox today, courtesy of goals from Andrius Velicka and Kris Boyd, but were hugely frustrated to leave Ibrox with nothing after dominating play for long spells in Glasgow.
Csaba Laszlo made two changes to the side that faced Falkirk two weeks ago. Lee Wallace missed out through illness, with Eggert Jonsson providing the back up. Ruben Palazuelos also missed out with an ankle injury which allowed a starting place for Mike Tullberg and saw Hearts start 4-4-2.
Hearts made a good start to the match and seemed to have learnt valuable lessons from their last trip to Ibrox. Hearts took the game to title chasing Rangers and could have gone ahead inside three minutes. Andy Driver whipped the ball in and Mike Tullberg took the first time shot which Alexander got down well to save.
Indeed, this set the tone of the match with the Tynecastle side having the majority of possession in the opening 20 minutes and looking comfortable. Rangers first effort on target came from Smith in the 32nd minute and from that moment on Rangers began to press Hearts higher up the pitch.
Bruno Aguiar had the chance to put Hearts one up with two efforts on goal just minutes later, but sadly the Portuguese maestro just couldn't get enough power behind the ball.
A minute before the interval a lax kick out found Andrius Velicka who laid the ball on to Kris Boyd, Boyd chipped the ball over Marian Kello and when it seemed that the ball would surely nestle in the net, the ball rattled off the crossbar.
Within a minute Hearts found themselves a goal down. A Rangers corner found Kris Boyd on the edge of the box with time to drill the ball low into the feet of Velicka, who in turn tapped the ball home from close range. The Jambos did not deserve to go in a goal down at half time.
Half time is usually not worthy of not however half time in this match was worthy of a mention. A group of Royal Marines who had recently returned from Afghanistan took to the field and commanded almost a fifteen minute ovation from all inside Ibrox. True Heroes.
The second half saw the match turn into a fraught affair with both teams having opportunities to score.
Hearts withdrew Mike Tullberg on 53 minutes and introduced Christian Nade into the fray. Nade's strength immediately looked to galvanise the Jambos. Nade's strength allowed him to get the better of Maurice Edu and play the ball onto Calum Elliot. As Elliott raced into the box, with Whittaker at his side, he tumbled to the ground and looked to Iain Brines for a penalty, which was promptly waved away.
Rangers could have doubled their lead soon after when Steven Davis was played through on goal the Northern Irish man shot low and Kello saved superbly.
Zaliukas was next to have an effort on goal for the Jambos after a looping ball in from Neilson, Marius just got too much on the ball and his header sailed over the bar. You sensed though that there was a goal left in this game and Hearts had to be ready for their chance.
That chance looked to present itself with four minutes to go as Hearts were awarded a free kick close to the corner flag. Andy Driver stepped up and drilled the ball into the penalty area where it found the head of the leaping Eggert Jonsson who had a free header but nodded the ball achingly wide.
Just when it looked like Hearts could take something from the game in the dying minutes, they were punished. Steven Davis took the Hearts defenders with him as he ran into the penalty area only to play a neat ball off to Kenny Miller on his right. Miller had time to play a neat ball into Kris Boyd who turned the ball home with his thigh.
This one gone, Hearts now look to a Thrilling Thurdsay with all the Europa League contenders in action. It should be some night.
Rangers: Alexander; Dailly, Weir, McCulloch, Whittaker; Davis, Mendes, Edu, Smith (Lafferty 74); Velicka (Miller 55), Boyd. Subs not used: McGregor, Hemdani, Novo, Little, Wylde.
Hearts: Kello; Neilson, Zaliukas, Karipidis, Jonsson; Obua (Kingston 84), Aguiar, Stewart, Driver; Elliot, Tullberg (Nade 53) Subs not used: Balogh, Mrowiec, Thomson, Templeton, Glen.
Referee: Iain Brines
Top man: Michael Stewart
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