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

Heart of Midlothian 0-3 Rangers

From Hearts Media at Tynecastle Stadium

Hearts suffered a setback in their quest for European football as they succumbed to a 3-0 defeat against Rangers in Saturday's Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash at Tynecastle.

Sone Aluko put the visitors ahead with a well-struck free kick on the half hour mark, before Andy Little lifted the ball over Jamie MacDonald shortly after to hand Ally McCoist's men a comfortable half time lead.

Craig Beattie failed to convert a penalty with fifteen minutes remaining after Templeton was brought down, paving the way for Little to wrap things up with his second of the afternoon with just minutes left.

Paulo Sergio made just one change to the side that fired Hearts into the Scottish Cup final last week as penalty hero Craig Beattie replaced Scott Robinson in attack.

With Dundee United having defeated St Johnstone earlier in the day, the Jam Tarts went into the clash with Rangers knowing three points would see them leap frog the Perth side into fifth place; leaving just a point up to the Arabs in fourth.

The visitors registered the first chance of the game when Andrew Little's ball from the right found Lee McCulloch on six yards; his effort however lacked the necessary power to beat Jamie MacDonald.

Rangers made a point of pressing high up the park throughout and the plan worked to great effect as the Jambos struggled impose themselves. The Gers kept things tight in central midfield, forcing the Jambos into launching long balls up towards Beattie that all too often failed to have the desired effect.

Instead it was the Govan side who eventually found some fluidity in their play, and they broke the deadlock on 29 minutes thanks to an exquisite free kick from Aluko.

Andy Webster was deemed to have fouled Maurice Edu twenty yards from goal, allowing Aluko to curl the ensuing free kick into the bottom right corner past the outstretched MacDonald.

Rangers seized control of the tie after the opener, going close again when Steven Whittaker stormed into the box before pulling the ball back for McCulloch who forced a superb close range save from MacDonald.

The pressure continued, however, and the second goal duly arrived on 35 minutes after Andy Webster's clearance fell to Lee Wallace on the edge of the box. The former Hearts full back found Little on eight yards, the latter swivelling on the ball before producing a cool finish into the top corner to double the lead.

Hearts forced a series of corners towards the end of the half but ultimately struggled to find any sort of fluidity against a well organised Rangers side; sloppy touches and stray passes the main feature of a disappointing opening 45 minutes for the boys in maroon.

Sergio attempted to shake up his side with a half time change, Stephen Elliott making way for Suso as Hearts sought to add some width to their game.

Beattie found space five minutes into the half as he pulled clear of his marker on the edge of the box, his shot narrowly missing the bottom right corner. Black had another effort saved shortly after as Hearts began to build some attacking momentum.

Suso raced down the left flank on the hour mark before laying the ball off to Black on the edge of the box, the playmaker teed up Beattie but his shot failed to hit the target.

Sergio then made a double change with twenty minutes remaining as Darren Barr made way for Gary Glen. There was also a welcome return from injury for David Templeton as he replaced Driver on the left flank.

The changes had an immediate effect as Glen glanced a header wide following a cross from Beattie, whilst Webster fired wide from close range shortly after as the Jambos looked to find a way back into the game.

With fifteen minutes remaining the Jam Tarts were handed a lifeline as Templeton was brought down just inside the box; referee Calum Murray immediately pointing to the spot.

Up stepped the hero from last Sunday, but Beattie's spot kick rattled McGregor's crossbar before the ball was cleared to safety. A long ball back in towards Glen failed to connect with the striker who attempted to wrap his right boot around it at the back post.

Hearts failed to maintain the pressure, however, with Rangers holding firm at the back. With the Jambos pouring forward, they were leaving holes in midfield which the visitors exploited with just minutes remaining.

Whittaker released Wallace in behind the maroon backline; his shot evaded the outstretched MacDonald and was met by Little who tapped the ball into the empty net to register his second goal of the tie.

The goal capped off a miserable afternoon for the Gorgie side who failed to capitalise on St Johnstone's defeat earlier in the day. European football is still well within their reach, however, with a trip to Tannadice next Saturday the perfect opportunity to make amends.

Hearts: MacDonald; McGowan, Webster, Zaliukas, Grainger; Skacel, Black, Barr (Glen 68), Driver (Templeton 68); Elliott (Suso 45), Beattie. Subs not used: Ridgers, Prychynenko, Novikovas, Robinson.

Rangers: McGregor; Bartley, Goian (Perry 76), Bocanegra, Wallace; Whittaker, McCabe, Edu, Little; McCulloch, Aluko (Kerkar 76). Subs not used: Alexander, Healy, Bedoya, Hegarty, Mitchell.

Referee: Calum Murray

Top man: Ryan McGowan

Hearts World

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