Aberdeen 3-2 Heart of Midlothian
Sunday 4th August 2019, KO 15:00 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Pittodrie
Hearts began their 2019/20 Ladbrokes Premiership campaign in dramatic fashion at Pittodrie after being edged out 3-2 by Aberdeen.
Sam Cosgrove opened the scoring for the Dons, before two second half goals from Steven Naismith and Jamie Walker put Hearts ahead. Aaron Hickey then saw red, and Aberdeen took advantage of their extra man, scoring twice in the last ten minutes through a Cosgrove penalty and a Ryan Hedges winner.
Craig Levein made one change to the side that took on East Fife last weekend in the Betfred Cup, with Dario Zanatta dropping out of the squad being replaced by John Souttar.
There was also a place on the bench for Steven Naismith, with Conor Washington also returning from injury.
Aberdeen went into the match on the back of a 5-0 win over Georgian side Chikhura in the Europa League on Thursday, and were brimming with confidence early doors. They had a superb chance to open the scoring after eight minutes.
Jon Gallagher played a short corner and worked his way into the area, but his cut back was blazed over the bar by James Wilson from 12 yards with the goal gaping. That early scare would get worse five minutes later.
A long ball down the park skimmed off the top of Christophe Berra's head and in behind the defence. Bobby Zlamal hesitated slightly in coming out for the ball, leaving Sam Cosgrove free to run home and score from a tight angle.
The Dons were threatening constantly early on and Gallagher came close twice, first when a fierce shot saw John Souttar throw himself at the ball to block it, before the ball broke back to the winger, and Zlamal pushed away his powerful effort.
Hearts then had their first chance of the match when Andy Irving drilled in a corner from the left flank and Berra threw himself at the ball to meet it with a diving header, but Joe Lewis palmed the ball over superbly.
The Jambos were then dealt a blow just before the interval when Souttar had to go off injured after a clash with Cosgrove, and he was replaced by Clevid Dikamona.
Into the second half, and it was a game of territory but few chances for either side until Craig Levein rolled the dice midway through the second half. Introducing Conor Washington and Naismith, the Jambos switched to a back four and pushed to a 4-2-4 formation that was immediately rewarded.
Michael Smith’s long throw from the right flank was flicked on by Halkett, and Naismith came careening in out of nowhere to head the ball beyond Lewis to seal his first goal since February. Washington then came close to his first Hearts goal when he ran in behind the Aberdeen defence, before cutting inside and hitting a shot just wide.
It got even better for Hearts four minutes later, when Naismith played a lovely pass to Uche Ikpeazu who drove at the Aberdeen defence before slipping in Jamie Walker, who poked the ball beyond Lewis to send the Hearts fans into raptures, but it would all fall apart just two minutes later.
Already on a yellow card, Hickey got on the wrong side of Niall McGinn and the youngster tripped the Northern Irish wide-man, leading to a dismissal. From the free kick, Ryan Hedges played the ball to McGinn who was tripped in the area by Dikamona, and Cosgrove converted the penalty.
Five minutes later, Aberdeen won the game when Greg Leigh whipped in a cross from the left that was flicked onto Hedges by McGinn, and the Welsh international fired the ball into the roof of the net to earn Aberdeen the three points after a topsy-turvy encounter that, although ending in defeat, had plenty of encouraging second-half signs for Hearts.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan, Considine, McKenna, Leigh, Ojo, Ferguson, Wilson (McGinn, 68'), Gallagher (Anderson, 81'), Wright (Hedges, 61;), Cosgrove. SUbs: Cerny, May, Campbell, Ramsey.
Hearts: Zlamal, M. Smith, Souttar (Dikamona, 39'), Berra, Halkett, Hickey, Walker, Clare, Irving (Naismith, 66'), Mulraney (Washington, 66'), Ikpeazu. Subs: Doyle, White, Bozanic, Cochrane.
Referee: Don Robertson