Hearts tightened their grip on third place in the cinch Premiership with a 2-0 victory over Aberdeen at Tynecastle Park on Saturday.
A Jorge Grant penalty, along with a sensational finish from Lawrence Shankland for his 19th of the season, sees the boys in maroon go ten points clear of fourth placed Kilmarnock in the league table.
The boys in maroon crafted the first big chance of the game after 11 minutes. A deft flick-on from Shankland allowed Grant to drive up the park and thread into Yutaro Oda on the right. The Japanese forward tried his luck, with his effort deflecting behind.
It was a fairly tight beginning to proceedings, with Aberdeen probing on their own terms too. Jamie McGrath showed real industry to steal the ball from Lembikisa and surge up the park; allowing Shinnie to get a cross to Dante Polvara at the back post who stuck his header behind.
The Dons went again on 22 minutes, forcing a diving stop from Zander Clark after Stefan Gartenmann’s deep cross was met by Jamie McGrath. Just minutes later, Aberdeen had the ball in the net.
Connor Barron cut back for an advancing Bojan Miovski in the Hearts box, allowing the Macedonian to curl a left footed strike past Clark. After a VAR check, referee Kevin Clancy chopped it off after Beni Baningime was tripped by the Aberdeen forward in the build up.
It remained tight and tense for much of the first 45, with Lawrence Shankland’s clever dummy that allowed Jorge Grant to get a shot away, remaining the only clear cut chance as the opening half approached it’s closing stages.
Richard Jensen’s foul on Yutaro Oda on the edge of the Dons’ box brought the first half to a close, with Stephen Kingsley’s resulting free kick narrowly grazing the bar on the way out.
HT: Heart of Midlothian 0-0 Aberdeen
The first half was barely ten minutes old when Hearts had a penalty. Alan Forrest’s cross was handled by Nicky Devlin, clearing the way for Jorge Grant to stroke a confident penalty past Kelle Roos to catapult the Jambos into the lead.
Hearts maintained the pressure as the clock struck the hour mark – a stunning ranged effort from Alan Forrest forced Kelle Roos into an excellent stretching save as Steven Naismith’s side kept up the pursuit for a second.
Aberdeen’s Dutch goalkeeper continued racking up the saves as Hearts forced the Dons onto the ropes. Calem Nieuwenhof delightfully laid the ball into Shankland’s path, sending a thunderous strike at Roos that prompted another save.
Inevitably, another Hearts goal was coming and what a goal it was. Cochrane and Grant combined well on the edge of a packed Aberdeen box. Jorge laid it into the path of Lawrence Shankland – who took the slightest of touches before leathering a rocket with the outside of his right foot.
The Jambos never took their foot off the gas, with substitute Kenneth Vargas saw his driven strike across goal flash narrowly wide of the post. There was no way back for the Dons, with the Jambos marching onwards in the hunt for third.
Hearts: Clark, Kent, Kingsley, Baningime, Grant (Tait 80’), Nieuwenhof, Shankland (Halkett 90’), Oda (Vargas 68’), Forrest, Cochrane, Lembikisa
Subs: Gordon, Halkett, Sibbick, Denholm, Pollock, Tait, Tagawa, Wilson, Vargas
Aberdeen: Roos, Devlin, Mackenzie, Shinnie, Jensen, Gartenmann (MacDonald 70’), McGrath (Sokler 68’), Barron (Morris 68’), Miovski, Clarkson, Polvara (Duk 64’)
Subs: Doohan, Duk, Gueye, Hayes, Sokler, Morris, Duncan, MacDonald, Milne