London Hearts Supporters Club

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Paulo Sergio <-auth Gordon Waddell auth-> Calum Murray
[S Aluko 29] ;[A Little 35] ;[A Little 88]
7 of 016 -----L SPL H

Hearts 0 Rangers 3

Apr 22 2012 By Gordon Waddell

Rangers star Sone Aluko scores from a free-kick in win over Hearts

ALLY McCOIST might fear liquidation for Rangers – but at least his team isn’t dissolving.

They’re a club on the brink, a squad who don’t know if there’s a pay packet for them in a month’s time.

But they still found the strength to dig deep for a win that, while it flattered them, was ultimately deserved.

A Sone Aluko free-kick and an Andy Little double gave the result a gloss their second-half performance didn’t merit.

And the game could have been a whole lot different if Craig Beattie – last week’s Scottish Cup hero for Hearts – hadn’t blown a penalty against the bar at 2-0 down when the Jambos were in the ascendancy.

After three defeats in four matches after going in to administration Rangers have now won four on the bounce, closing the gap on title winners Celtic to 15 points.

Who knows what the level of debate will be like if they win next weekend’s Old Firm game then close within 10 points or less by the time the season’s out?

Still, that’s next weekend’s insanity. This match was all about another display of defiance from players and punters alike.

In a weirdly vibrant atmosphere, you’d almost have thought something was at stake for both clubs.

And the opening 28 minutes was high on tempo for sure, but pretty low on quality.

Chances were few and far between, an easy Jamie MacDonald save from Lee McCulloch and a great Andy Driver cross with no takers were as dangerous as it got.

But that all changed the minute ref Calum Murray blew on Andy Webster for leading with his arm on Maurice Edu 25 yards from goal. Aluko lined up his sights, wrapped his left foot round the dead ball and MacDonald had no chance as it nestled in the net past his despairing left hand.

It could have been 2-0 six minutes later. Steven Whittaker squeezed a low ball past Darren Barr on the right, McCulloch picked his spot but the Jambos keeper produced a sensational stop low to his right.

The defensive efforts were a disaster two minutes after that, though, when Gers did double their lead.

MacDonald flapped badly at Lee Wallace’s cross and, as the ball came back in to Little, Marius Zaliukas was sloppy with his challenge.

The Northern Ireland striker spun, and although his contact wasn’t so clean, looped the ball over the keeper.

Hearts staged a mini-revival before the break, turning the screw with a string of free-kicks and corners.

But McCoist’s men were resolute at the back, getting bodies in the way to pinball the home side’s efforts out of the danger zone.

Jambos gaffer Paulo Sergio made a change at the break, bringing on Suso Santana for Stephen Elliott, and they immediately took the upper hand.

Beattie cut inside and his left-foot blast had Allan McGregor scrambling at his post to usher the ball past. And Ian Black’s skidding 30-yarder was more food for thought for the Scotland keeper as the men in front of him struggled to find their composure.

Again, though, what Rangers lacked in craft they made up for in graft.

Their ball retention was chronic at times but, to their credit, they pressed the game high up the park.

Still, there was no disguising the fact the Jambos were miles more enterprising in the second half.

And Sergio wasn’t for settling. Off went Barr and Driver, as David Templeton and Gary Glen were pitched forward for the final quarter.

It strengthened their stranglehold. Rudi Skacel forced McGregor into a fingertip stop with a low 25-yarder with 16 minutes left and seconds later they were gifted an even better chance.

Aluko upended Templeton and Murray pointed to the spot, with Beattie confidently stepping up looking for a repeat of his Cup semi classic.

Last week, he stripped his shirt off in celebration. This week he nearly stripped the paint off the bar as the ball blasted back over his head.

It was the Jambos’ sixth penalty miss in their last 10 awards.

Rangers rubbed a final handful of salt in the wounds with their killer third goal two minutes from time.

Whittaker’s measured through ball found Wallace who clipped it over the onrushing MacDonald.

Little ignored the offside shouts and rolled the ball over the line and in to an empty net.

Taken from the Daily Record

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