Hearts began their 2018/19 Ladbrokes Premiership campaign in winning fashion with a convincing 4-1 victory at a sunny Hope Stadium against Hamilton Academicals.
Despite falling behind to an early Mickel Miller goal, the Jam Tarts fired back in sensational style in front of 2663 travelling supporters to rout the Accies, giving them a total of 14 goals scored in the past three matches.
Peter Haring was at the double, scoring the equaliser and third goals, with a Steven Naismith penalty sandwiching those strikes, and Steven MacLean’s superb first-time finish adding gloss to the victory.
Craig Levein named an unchanged side from the team that defeated Inverness 5-0 in the final Betfred Cup group stage match, with Uche Ikpeazu partnering Steven MacLean up front, supported by Callumn Morrison and Steven Naismith.
Michael Smith failed to recover from the knock that kept him out of the Inverness match, although Ben Garuccio was deemed sufficiently fit following concern over a groin strain.
Accies began on the front foot, pressing the Hearts defence high up the park but the away side had the first opening of the match. Naismith played a neat reverse pass through to MacLean, but his shot from a tight angle could only find the side netting.
The home side then scored the goal they would feel their play merited. A bouncing ball into the box proved troublesome for Aaron Hughes, and Miller nipped in ahead of him to poke the ball beyond Bobby Zlamal in goals.
However, the Jambos responded immediately. After a Christophe Berra header was brilliantly tipped over by Gary Woods, the next phase of play saw the ball break to Naismith at the edge of the box. He played a lovely floated ball over the top which was met by Haring, with the Austrian nodding the ball home.
Hearts were pressing for a second now, and should have netted one through Morrison. Naismith’s through ball played the youngster in, but Morrison could only fire the ball wildly and wide.
Hamilton almost retook the lead just before half-time, when a cross found Rakish Bingham in the area, but a superb last-ditch block from John Souttar prevented a certain goal.
Hearts came out of the blocks sharply in the second half, and a Haring half-volley had to be tipped wide by Woods, but the save delayed the inevitable. Ikpeazu turned his marker superbly in the box following a throw-in and, after his ball across the box was pushed out by Woods, fell to Naismith.
The Scotland striker dummied a shot, and drew a late challenge from his marker, with a penalty kick the only outcome. Naismith dusted himself off and fired an unstoppable spot-kick into the corner.
Hearts could smell blood now, and added a third in style. A drilled free kick from Lee was nodded down by Berra to Naismith, who teed up Haring and the Austrian side-footed the ball home from 15 yards into the corner. The Jambos were rampant now. and four minutes latter scored again.
Ikpeazu demonstrated that trademark strength in holding off his marker, and spinning away before playing a superb reverse pass through to MacLean, and the forward hammered home a first-time finish into the top corner with his left foot.
The Jambos almost made it five a minute later, when Hughes’ deep cross found Ikpeazu in the middle of the box, but his powerful diving header was straight at Woods. As the game wound down, substitute Jake Mulraney burst through the middle and attempted to round Woods, but the keeper made a good save.
Woods was called into action again shortly afterwards, when MacLean hit a half-volley on the angle, but the keeper once more kept the scoreline down with an excellent save, but by then the outcome was inevitable as Hearts began their league campaign in style.
Hamilton Accies: Woods, McMann, Gordon, Imrie (Cunningham, 70'), Bingham (Bloomfield, 79'), Miller, Penny, MacKinnon, Want, Lyon (Taiwo, 62'), Kelly. Subs: Fulton, McGowan, Phillips, Boyd.
Hearts: Zlamal, Souttar, Haring, Berra, Lee, Naismith, Hughes, Garuccio (Burns, 70'), MacLean, Ikpeazu (Lafferty, 77'), Morrison (Mulraney, 70'). Subs: Doyle, Bozanic, McDonald, L.Smith.
Referee: Andrew Dallas