Heart of Midlothian 2-1 Rangers
Sunday 26th January 2020, KO 15:00 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Tynecastle Park
Hearts produced a stunning comeback to floor Rangers in an incredible afternoon’s football at Tynecastle.
The Jambos pulled it out of the bag in the second period after the Gers took the lead early in the half through Ryan Kent, but a one-two from forward duo Steven Naismith and debut boy Liam Boyce earned Daniel Stendel his first, very well deserved, league win for Hearts.
The gaffer had made five changes from the side that drew 0-0 in Dingwall on Wednesday, with debuts for new signings Boyce and Toby Sibbick, who started in midfield alongside Andy Irving.
Boyce began the match brightly, as did Hearts who were pressing their opponents high up the park, and the Northern Irish striker took aim from 25 yards but Allan McGregor got down well to his right hand side to save.
Rangers then showed their danger on the counter attack when they broke down the other end of the park, as Ryan Jack slipped in Ryan Kent behind the Hearts defence, but Kent blazed over the bar.
The game was rampaging from end to end, and the Jambos thought they had the lead after quarter of an hour when skipper Steven Naismith played Boyce through. He prodded the ball past McGregor, but the linesman raised his flag.
Rangers responded through Kent and Joe Aribo, who was played clean through on goal by his team mate but Aidy White recovered superbly to force him into shooting wide.
The game settled down as the game approached the interval, but it exploded into life again as the second half began, and agonisingly for Hearts, it was Rangers who took the lead.
John Souttar lost a battle with Jermain Defoe high up the park, and Rangers broke down the park through Kent, who doubled up with Borna Barisic down the left. Barisic crossed for Aribo who laid the ball off to Kent, who finished high into the net.
But Hearts didn’t let their heads drop as had happened so often this season, and responded superbly. Boyce capitalised after Craig Halkett won the ball high up the park, and squared for Naismith, who buried his shot into the corner before McGregor.
Tynecastle was rocking now, and the gaffer responded by introducing Conor Washington for the hardworking Lewis Moore as Hearts chased the three points, where previously they may have tried to shore up for the one point.
In going for the win, however, it was opening up gaps in the Hearts defence and Rangers threatened to take the lead once more when Aribo played a one-two with sub Matt Polster before curling an effort just narrowly past the post.
At this point, Hearts were forced into another change when the impressive Sibbick finally succumbed to cramp and with an attacking bench, the gaffer threw on Uche Ikpeazu to cause mayhem in the Rangers defence as the Jambos effectively went with four up front, with Naismith buzzing around in midfield.
It almost paid dividends immediately when Ikpeazu bustled his way down to the byline and cut the ball back. Euan Henderson got a touch onto it, and then it fell to Washington at the back post. Washington chested the ball down, and drilled the ball towards goal but it was cleared agonisingly off the line.
The goal did come, eventually. Boyce cleverly switched the play wide to sub Ollie Bozanic, who clipped the ball into the area and it bounced across to Boyce, who cut inside his marker and hammered a left foot shot that deflected past McGregor to send Tynecastle wild with ecstasy.
Rangers then resorted to bombing the ball long, but the utterly imperious duo of Souttar and Halkett cleared everything, while Ikpeazu and Washington chased down every defender at the other end of the park as Hearts held firm to much needed three points.
Hearts: Pereira, White (Bozanic, 46'), Souttar, Clare, Naismith, Halkett, Moore (Washington, 59'), Boyce, Sibbick (Ikpeazu, 75'), Irving, Henderson. Subs: Zlamal, Walker, Mesjino, Avdijaj.
Rangers: McGregor, Goldson, Jack (Arfield, 46'), Defoe, Davis, Kent, Flanagan (Polster, 46'), Aribo, Kamara (Ojo, 73'), Katic, Barisic. Subs: Foderingham, Edumndson, Halliday, Jones.
Referee: Steven McLean