Rangers 3-0 Heart of Midlothian
Sunday 3rd November 2019, KO 15:00 | Betfred Cup SF | Hampden
Hearts were knocked out of the Betfred Cup at the semi-final stage as they were defeated by Rangers today at a rain-soaked Hampden Park.
Despite the welcome return of Steven Naismith to the side following an injury absence, the Jambos were beaten by a clinical Rangers side.
Interim manager Austin MacPhee made three changes to the side that lost to St Johnstone on Wednesday night at McDiarmid Park, with Glenn Whelan, Ryo Meshino and Craig Wighton coming into the side. There were places on the bench for, among others, Naismith, Jamie Walker and Uche Ikpeazu.
Rangers had the lions’ share of possession in the opening period of the match, but at first Hearts managed to restrict them to long range efforts which caused no harm, as both Alfredo Morelos and Sheyi Ojo failed to test Joel Pereira.
Ryan Jack found James Tavernier on the right hand side of the area, and he played a dangerous ball across the face of goal from which Michael Smith did superbly to clear, before Steven Davis fired the ball across the face of goal with no takers. Moments later, Jack burst into the area and drew a save from Pereira before Morelos fired wide.
Ojo again found space down the right side soon after and played the ball across the face of goal which Smith could only clear to Glen Kamara, but the Finnish midfielder’s goal-bound effort was cleared well by Smith. Tavernier then had a chance when Jack slid him into the area, but his right-footed shot was pushed behind by Pereira.
The Jambos were then dealt a blow after 25 minutes when Whelan had to be substituted, the influential midfielder appearing to be toiling with a hamstring complaint. Andy Irving came on to replace the Republic of Ireland midfielder. Shortly after, Steven MacLean and Sean Clare both entered the book for late challenges.
Austin MacPhee was soon forced into another substitution after MacLean was spoken to for a late challenge on Allan McGregor, leaving referee John Beaton possibly one more foul away from dismissing the striker, and so Uche Ikpeazu made his introduction from the bench. Rangers came close again just before the break when Tavernier played a corner to Davis, whose volley was deflected wide.
But they would score in stoppage time of the first half, when Morelos found space on the right side of the area, and passed the ball into the middle to an unmarked Filip Helander who somehow found himself alone in the middle of the area to open the scoring.
One minute into the second half, it got worse for Hearts. A Borna Barisic cross into the area was headed onto Tavernier at the back post and he drilled the ball into the six yard box where Morelos finished from close range to double the Gers’ advantage.
Hearts came agonisingly close to responding five minutes later after two corners. First, Meshino’s in swinger was headed goal bound by Ikpeazu but Connor Goldson cleared it off the line and out for another corner, which Ollie Bozanic hit to the head of Wighton, whose header drifted just past the post. Then Naismith made his return from the bench, replacing Smith.
Rangers came close again just before the hour mark after a counter attack when Barisic’s deep cross was volleyed into the ground by Jack and the ball was superbly stopped by Pereira from bouncing into the top corner. Morelos came even closer moments later when Ojo’s cross was headed out to the Colombian but his shot was just over the bar.
Just after the hour mark, Rangers killed the game off. Ryan Kent beat Aaron Hickey down the wing and cut the ball back for Morelos, who took a touch and fired home past Pereira to make it 3-0. Hearts attempted to respond, and an Ikpeazu header from a Clare cross drew a save from Allan McGregor. Rangers did have the ball in the net again on 68 minutes, but Morelos was denied a hat-trick by the linesman’s flag.
As Rangers made all three substitutes, the tempo of the match dropped but they still drew saves from Pereira from replacements Jermain Defoe, whose first-time effort was parried out to fellow sub Scott Arfield, and again the Portuguese stopper got down well to keep the scoreline down to three as the game came to a close.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Helander, Goldson, Jack (Arfield, 77'), Davis, Ojo (Defoe, 80'), Kent (Aribo, 66'), Kamara, Morelos, Barisic. Subs: Foderingham, Flanagan, Katic, Barker.
Hearts: Pereira, Smith (Naismith, 53'), White, Berra, Bozanic, Clare, Whelan (Irving, 27'), Wighton, MacLean (Ikpeazu, 40'), Hickey, Meshino. Subs: Doyle, Walker, Brandon, Keena.
Referee: John Beaton