Heart of Midlothian 2-3 Kilmarnock
Wednesday 5th February 2020, KO 19:45 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Tynecastle Park
Hearts slipped to their first defeat of 2020 after a clinical Kilmarnock side took all three points tonight at Tynecastle.
Despite a late fightback from the Jambos in a rousing finale, Killie held on to record their second victory of the season down Gorgie way.
Daniel Stendel made two changes to the side that drew with St Johnstone in dramatic fashion on Saturday, with illness victim Toby Sibbick dropping out along with Ryotaro Meshino, and they were replaced by debutant Marcel Langer and Lewis Moore.
The Jambos started brightly, and on the front foot, playing at a high tempo. Euan Henderson was a bright spark early doors, and he almost unlocked an opening with a mazy run. Cutting in from the left, the young forward let fly from distance but keeper Laurentiu Branescu got down well to save.
Just prior to the 15 minute mark, Hearts came close when Lewis Moore hit the byline and attempted a cross into the area that spun up and into the air, and the ball bounced off the crossbar and out for a corner.
Craig Halkett then met the cross from the short corner move, which saw Henderson hit the byline and whip the ball to the back post, but Branescu got down to save. A minute later, Andy Irving found space outside the area but again Branescu saved.
Killie then took the lead, somewhat against the run of play. Eamonn Brophy got in behind the Hearts defence and saw his shot saved by Joel Pereira at the near post, but from the corner, Hearts failed to clear the ball and Stuart Findlay nodded home.
The visitors were content to hit on the break, and doubled their lead just before the break. A long ball over the top deceived the Hearts defence and, despite being forced wide by Pereira, Chris Burke chipped the ball into the corner.
It got worse shortly after the interval, when Stephen O’Donnell burst down the right, cut in from the wing and slipped it to Brophy, who fired a left foot shot past the diving Pereira into the middle of the goal to put the game, as it seemed, out of sight.
Hearts made a raft of substitutions as they chased the game, bringing on Uche Ikpeazu, Conor Washington and Jamie Walker but time seemed to be running out for the Jambos until Washington was brought down by Branescu in the area, with the keeper being booked and Sean Clare converting from the spot.
There was more drama as Branescu then threw the ball away, receiving his marching orders and giving Hearts an unexpected bonus going into the latter stages. Liam Boyce then found space at the back post, but shanked his effort wide.
Irving was next to try his luck, but sub keeper Jam Koprivec got down well to save, before Walker hit a ferocious half-volley that deflected onto the roof of the net. Hearts then got another back when a Walker cross reached Craig Halkett at the back post, and the defender volleyed home in style.
As the game entered five minutes of stoppage time, Hearts threw the kitchen sink at Killie with Boyce and Halkett again going close, but time ran out for the Jambos.
Hearts: Pereira, White, Souttar, Clare, Naismith, Halkett, Moore (Walker, 68'), Boyce, Langer (Ikpeazu, 52'), Irving, Henderson (Washington, 61'). Subs: Zlamal, Bozanic, Dikamona, Meshino.
Kilmarnock: Branescu, O'Donnell, Power, McKenzie (Koprivec, 80'), Dicker, Brophy (Kiltie, 74'), Hamalainen, Findlay (Broadfoot, 66'), Del Fabro, Kabamba, Burke. Subs, Millen, St Clair, Taylor, Connell.
Referee: David Munro