London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sun 23 Aug 2009 Hearts 1 Rangers 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Telegraph ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Roddy Forsyth auth-> Craig Thomson
[L McCulloch 62] ;[K Boyd pen 91] Kevin Thomson
12 of 012 David Witteveen 30 L SPL H

Hearts 1 Rangers 2

An Army paratrooper dropped from the skies on to the Tynecastle pitch at half-time on Sunday but the infantryman - who performed his feat for charity - could hardly have guessed that he was plunging into a combat zone.

By Roddy Forsyth

Rangers substitute Kris Boyd has last word in battle of Tynecastle
Winning feeling: Rangers' Kris Boyd celebrates his last-minute penalty Photo: GETTY IMAGES

But there was a powerful whiff of brimstone about these proceedings from the start. The opening exchanges delivered the clear message that any player lingering on the ball would be in danger of hospitalisation and, sure enough, within three minutes Suso Santana was piling through Kenny Miller from behind in notional pursuit of a ball that had gone out of play.

Miller reacted furiously but had just enough presence of mind to take the sting out of a blow aimed at the Spaniard so that it ended almost as a pat on the back. The pair were duly booked – Suso was lucky not to be sent packing – as Craig Thomson embarked on a strenuous afternoon of attempting to keep the exchanges within humane bounds, but when Kevin Thomson launched a vicious challenge on Ian Black, taking the Hearts man down with his trailing leg, the referee had no option but to dismiss his Rangers namesake.

Walter Smith, the Ibrox manager, was tart when asked about the red card administered to a midfield player making his first start in nine months, having only lately made a full recovery from a cruciate ligament injury. "I didn't think it was the right decision," said Smith.

"It was an opportunity for the referee to send him off and he took it. There wasn't any great contact made – if there had been, the player wouldn't have been able to continue like he did for the rest of the game."

The question of intent either eluded Smith's notice or the manager chose to ignore it, but the most casual observer could hardly have mistaken Thomson's evident aim as he embarked on a 10-yard bolt towards Black; if the Hearts player had kept his feet planted on the turf he would very likely have been in plaster this morning.

The tenor of the afternoon had been set by Hearts' obvious desire to atone for their criminally vapid performance in the 4-0 Europa League defeat by Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia less than 72 hours previously.

They may lack strength in depth – as their manager, Csaba Laszlo, complains – as well as in quality, otherwise Christian Nade would never have been considered for a starting place, but Hearts' pride was clearly stung by losing their first two competitive games of the season.

Twenty minutes after Thomson's departure, Rangers were not only depleted in numbers, they were also behind. To make matters worse, the goal was the product of a horrible mistake by Allan McGregor, whose restoration to the position of first-choice goalkeeper had angered his colleague and friend, Neil Alexander.

David Witteveen, marauding from the left, exchanged passes with Nade and drove for goal. The shot lacked power and, although it may have skimmed on the slick surface it should have been a straightforward take for McGregor. Instead the goalkeeper allowed it to squirm off his gloves and across the line despite his frantic attempt at recovery.

Before the game could get under way again Nade – who had been booked for a foul on David Weir and who was showing every sign of further transgression – was replaced by Gary Glen.

As Nade strode angrily to the tunnel, Laszlo made some placatory comment and was rewarded with a two-word directional instruction, clearly audible to the nearby spectators.

To win the game, Hearts had to stick to the simple ploy of keeping possession while waiting for an opening to present itself and making sure that Rangers would sap their energy chasing the ball. Instead the Tynecastle side became muddled and unfocused and threw away a gift chance to secure victory.

This time Witteveen was the sinner. Smith, who is a fetishist for a back four, had unexpectedly switched to a three-man defence at the restart and replaced John Fleck with Steven Smith in hope of taking the game to Hearts.

The risk was that the thinned back line would be caught on the counter, which is exactly what happened when Witteveen gathered a lob on the edge of the box with Glen gloriously unmarked to his left.

The Austrian, though, sent an aimless pass in the other direction. Rangers, reprieved, were level within a minute when Lee McCulloch met a Smith free-kick with a glancing header beyond Janos Balogh.

Rangers – and the referee – poured salt into Hearts' wounds in the final minute of normal time when Mr Thomson judged that Ismael Bouzid had fouled Steven Naismith inside the box, a dubious judgment call at best. Kris Boyd, becoming increasingly restive on the subs' bench, had been allowed to vent his spleen in practical fashion when he replaced Kenny Miller only a minute earlier.

They might as well have laid a red carpet for him all the way from dugout to penalty spot. Boyd's first touch of the ball was to grab it and place it on the spot, from where he struck it past Balogh for his first goal at Tynecastle as a Rangers player – and for the Ibrox club's 100th SPL goal at the venue.

Scottish teams may depart Europe through a revolving door, but for carnivores, this was an unmitigated treat. Those who pick at debatable penalty awards in games against Old Firm sides will be gnawing at this bone for quite a while, too.

Match details

Hearts (4-4-1-1): Balogh; Jonsson, Bouzid, Goncalves, Wallace; Suso, Black, Palazuelos, Obua; Witteveen (Elliot 61 ,Novikovas 70); Nade. Subs: Kello (g), Kucharski, Stewart, Thomson. Booked: Suso, Nade.

Rangers (4-5-1): McGregor; Whittaker, Bougherra, Weir, Papac; Davis, McCulloch, Thomson; Naismith, Miller, Fleck (Smith h-t). Subs: Alexander (g), Boyd, Niguez, Beasley, Little, Wilson. Sent off: Thomson. Booked: Miller.

Referee: Craig Thomson.

Taken from

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