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Craig Levein <-auth James Traynor auth-> Douglas McDonald
12 of 015 ----- L SPL H


Sep 13 2004

Capital carnage leaves Gers boss battle weary Hearts 0 Rangers 0

By James Traynor

THIS match should have been played under an X-certificate. It was full-blooded, it had moments of fury and violence and it certainly wasn't for the faint of heart. Grown men hurtled into one another with such ferocity at times they should have been wearing crash helmets but the Tynecastle fans loved it. Hardly a soul left the old ground,which can rarely have hosted such a physical encounter.

It was ugly, it was crude in the extreme and it ended in mayhem with players going for one another at the mouth of the tunnel.

Jean-Alain Boumsong, who had survived a titanic battle with Mark de Vries, lay on the turf clutching his throat and Rangers team--mates were in no doubt that Robbie Neilson was guilty of something. He tried to get to the sanctuary of the dressing room but Paolo Vanoli, who had been substituted in the second half, tried to take some kind of revenge.

De Vries jumped in to confront the Italian and then Rangers boss Alex McLeish had to step in to try to restore a sense of decorum, which wasan impossible task.

However, it's not unreasonable to suggest McLeish may have taken the most severe kicking because he really needed to win this match.

He didn't, of course, and his team find themselves joint-fourth in the SPL, seven points behind leaders Celtic, after only five matches of the new campaign.

Rangers have won only two of their seven competitive matches so far this season and, frankly, that isn't nearly good enough. Now McLeish knows he has to win the UEFA Cup qualifying tie against Maritimo, who won their own league match 3-0 yesterday.

These are difficult, potentially treacherous days for McLeish, who has to get his team playing with more style and creativity, although he couldn't fault them for their courage on a day when Hearts simply refused to be pushed aside.

The pace was fierce and no one had an eye on the UEFA Cup ties that loom for both sides this Thursday and hopefully there will be no casualties on either side, although it would be a miracle if all of the players woke up today with no aches.

Yesterday always had the potential to become messy, with Hearts fans bristling with rage against the board and Chris Robionson in particular. The fans don't want to leave their home and it is easy to sympathise because the atmosphere yesterday was electric.

Murrayfield will never come close to generating such passion and Robinson and Co ought to remember that fact when they attend today's egm to discuss the conditional sale of Tynecastle.

Many fans made their feelings clear by demonstrating outside at the end of the match. There were fears that people at a BNP meeting might spill out and mingle with genuine Hearts fans, who are also concerned about rumours that Blackburn Rovers might be keen to Craig Levein as a successor to Graeme Souness.

But Levein at least was able to leave Tynecastle feeling satisfied, while McLeish was left to fret about the lack of cohesion and pattern in his own side.

He went with two right-backs and two left in his side, leaving Fernando Ricksen and Dragan Mladenovic to try to control the central midfield, with Chris Burke on the right and Vanoli on the left.

Maurice Ross was on the right of the defensive line with Gregory Vignal on the opposite side of Craig Moore and Boumsong in a set-up which, on paper at least, looked as if it would be difficult to break down.

McLeish would also have been hoping his front two of Dado Prso and Nacho Novo would cause problems for Hearts' defence.

Just as well, then, that their captain, Steven Pressley, was back beside Andy Webster and with Phil Stamp, Paul Hartley, Patrick Kisnorbo and Joe Hamill running and snapping into tackles in the midfield, Hearts started slightly better.

However, Rangers did begin to carry the ball forward and Pressley had to step in smartly to stop first Prso and then Burke, although Webster looked slightly hesitant as he tried to clear from his ownby line. He was too late in swiping at the ball and conceded a corner that brought Rangers nothing.

Prso then stepped away from Webster just as Moore prodded the ball forward and the striker flicked to his right where Vanoli was powering forward in support.

The Italian hit a thunderous shot towards Craig Gordon, who did well to get himself in the way and block.

Minutes later Hearts were screaming for a foul deep inside Rangers' half after Ross and de Vries had tussled.

The striker should have scored in 17 minutes when clean through and facing only Stefan Klos. Hearts fans rose to acclaim the opener but Klos, with one of those close-range saves that have become his hallmark, had them slumping back into their seats.

The tackles were flying in and Vanoli didn't like it, especially after he was felled by Neilson. Vanoli complained bitterly to referee Dougie McDonald who shut him up by threatening to show him a yellow card. Still brooding and feeling hard done by, Vanoli had a kick at de Vries and was lucky not to be cautioned.

So, too, was Weir after he had tripped Burke 25 yards from goal but play clattered on with both managers imploring their players to calm down and use their heads as well as their hearts.

Pressley didn't get the wire from his bench and thumped into Prso just as he was about to make the most of a delightful Mladenovic reverse pass.

Pressley was booked and the rush-hour football continued all the way to the break.

Kisnorbo almost got a header on target early in the second half and then Vignal gave the ball away to Stamp but his cross drifted harmlessly into the arms of Klos.

Rangers won a corner on Hearts' left. Vanoli's delivery found Novo but his header was tame, unlike Maybury's challenge on Burke as the little winger tried to dart into the box. Maybury was booked before the Ibrox team squandered the free-kick, much to the disgust of McLeish.

The manager removed Novo, who had contributed very little, and Shota Arveladze was sent on but before he could get a touch Ross, perhaps as punishment for the challenge on Burke, thumped into Maybury and was lucky to escape with only a booking.

Tiring de Vries went off in 62 minutes and Neil Janczyk took over but he dropped just off the front leaving Weir alone up front.

Minutes later Burke twisted away from Maybury, who could not afford to lunge because of his booking, and Arveladze seemed to meet the cross perfectly in front of goal. However, with Gordon waiting to react, the Georgian glanced his header wide.

Stevie Thompson and Peter Lovenkrands replaced Prso and Vanoli as Rangers tried fresh legs.

Thompson was booked for a foul on Neilson, who recovered well enough to head off the line from Burke, and the game came to a close with Lovenkrands failing to get on the end of a pass that flashed across Gordon's goal at one end and then Hartley heading over Klos' bar from two yards.

Hartley was booked for a crude challenge on Vignal and Moore, too,for a block on Janczyk that was merely further evidence, not that any was required, that this was a game almost totally devoid of real skill.

Taken from the Daily Record

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