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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth None auth-> Mike Tumilty
9 of 010 Kevin Kyle 46L SPL A

SPL: Aberdeen 0 Hearts 1

Oct 17 2010 Sunday Mail

MARK McGHEE heard his team booed off at Pittodrie after going a sixth-straight SPL game without a win - then said he's never felt more optimistic about his Dons side.

After making a great start to the season Aberdeen have now taken just one point out of a possible 18 - and they were deservedly beaten in this bruising game after Hearts took command of the second half.

Kevin Kyle's bullet header inside a minute of the restart sealed the win as Hearts welcomed back rebel captain Marius Zaliukas for his first game since August 21.

But McGhee refused to be downhearted after seeing his own missing stars return to action with Paul Hartley, Sone Aluko, Andrius Velicka and Scott Vernon all involved.

McGhee said: "I'm disappointed with the goal we lost but generally I was really excited about having the boys back from injury. Our season hasn't started yet and there's enough of the year left that we are going to benefit big time from these guys being back in the squad.

"We can only improve from here and we will. I am absolutely convinced of that and I remain optimistic and excited about the potential of this team to do well this season."

Hartley in particular is a crucial figure for the Dons and how they needed his presence in a niggly first half that saw more bookings than shots on target.

Yet amidst the hard-fought battle were some sublime touches and individual skill, mostly from tricky wingers Aluko and Suso Santana.

Hearts man Suso was particularly busy early on as left-back Andrew Considine struggled to cope with his quick footwork.

However, it was Aluko who came closest to making his skills count as he sparked a breathless break that ended with Chris Maguire hooking over a tempting delivery that was just out the reach of Velicka and Vernon.

Calum Elliot then almost put Hearts in front in nine minutes when Ruben Palazuelos teed him up in the box only for the striker's shot to be saved by Mark Howard.

But the silky early start didn't last as both sides matched up - refreshingly in 4-4-2 formations - and dug in for a full-blooded battle of wills.

Darren Barr copped a 26th minute booking for felling Yoann Folly, followed a minute later by Rudi Skacel, who slid in late on Maguire, before the Dons man was carded himself 10 minutes later.

We were witnessing more silly handbags on the pitch than you'd see at the shops on Union Street but at least football was the winner in one lovely moment on the stroke of half-time.

Hartley was the creator with the midfielder's neat little ball sending Maguire skipping into the box to rifle a low first-time shot just wide.

What a difference it would have made to the shape of the game if that had gone in just before the break.

Instead it was Hearts who swung the initiative their way on the other side of half-time by scoring a superb goal 38 seconds after the kick-off.

Santana started this lovely sweeping move with a quick feed to Skacel in the heart of midfield and the Czech quickly threaded a perfect pass to release Elliot surging down the right wing.

The striker's delivery inside was equally swift and picked out Kyle who ghosted between the two central defenders to bullet home an unstoppable header. Quick, clever, clinical.

Things didn't get much better for Dons as Howard failed to shrug off a head knock he had suffered just before the break and he had to be replaced in 54 minutes by Jamie Langfield.

Velicka followed him off three minutes later to make way for Darren Mackie.

Kyle copped a booking in 63 minutes for persistent fouling but he was putting himself about in all the right ways when he almost grabbed a second 14 minutes from time.

More tantalising skill from Santana saw him dodge his way past two players into the box before he cut it back into the path of Kyle whose net-bound shot was halted by Considine's brilliant block.

More bookings followed with Adrian Mrowiec punished for a lunge on Maguire before getting a taste of his own medicine from Zander Diamond, who also earned a place in Mike Tumilty's book.

Rory McArdle's vital goal-line clearance denied Kyle again seven minutes from time as the big hitman continued to run amok in the Dons box.

The frustration was clear to see for Dons as another booking for late sub Ryan Fraser was quickly followed by Pittodrie No.2 Scott Leitch being sent to the stand for saying something out of turn to the fourth official.

A baffled McGhee said: "Scott deserves to be sent off every week - except this one! It's the quietest I've heard him, the least animated I've seen him and suddenly he's sent to the stand.

"There was a good rapport with the fourth official but he took exception to something that Scott said but I've no idea what at this stage."

Taken from the Daily Record

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