Table topping Hearts, the only remaining unbeaten Premiership team prior to this weekend’s fixtures, headed to Glasgow to take on a Rangers side oozing with confidence from their impressive 3-1 victory at Ibrox over Rapid Wien in midweek.
Steven Gerrard, as a result of Rangers Thursday night victory, named the same starting 11 that took care of Austria’s most successful club with Craig Levein naming just the one change as Hearts made it seven games unbeaten in the league after beating St Johnstone at Tynecastle. Callumn Morrison, after impressing in recent weeks, dropped out for Uche Ikpeazu.
Ryan Kent, outstanding versus Rapid, would win a free kick following a challenge from Austrian holding midfielder Peter Haring, the former Rapid Wien youth prospect, having played for their second team.
James Tavernier would take and as Hearts looked to execute an offside trap, they failed to do so and embarrassingly gave Alfredo Morelos all the time in the world to lift his head and square for Kent, meaning Rangers were ahead after just two minutes with the first goal Hearts had conceded away from home since their opening day 4-1 win at Hamilton Accies.
The Jambos could have levelled with a decent opportunity for the league’s top goalscorer and former Ger Steven Naismith.
Hearts looking to draw level
James Tavernier’s throw successfully found Scott Arfield who passed back to his captain before Haring looked to intercept for Hearts. He slipped it inside to Uche Ikpeazu who drew a couple of Rangers bodies towards him before sliding into Steven MacLean. The veteran with a neat flick was able to find Naismith, ahead of the penalty spot but under pressure from a few Rangers defenders. Naismith was unable to get the better of his former team mate Allan McGregor, the keeper rushing to deny his left footed effort.
It’s fair to say that Uche Ikpeazu is a handful for the majority, if not all, defenders in the Premiership. As he held off Joe Worrall, he still had a lot to do to work himself into the box and did so before shifting onto his left foot, again McGregor denying Hearts from drawing themselves level. At Ibrox, opportunities as an away side are rare, Hearts passing up two decent ones to make amends for the catastrophic opening goal.
Bobby Zlamal was next to make an important save after Jon Flanagan had overlapped Ryan Kent, the former Liverpool full back denied by the Czech with a left footed save, after receiving from current Liverpool loanee Kent.
The first goal to concede was appalling from Hearts, the second another gift which Rangers gratefully accepted.
John Souttar headed away James Tavernier’s cross finding Demi Mitchell in the process. Mitchell looked to turn inside his own box before Daniel Candeias robbed him of possession and the Portuguese winger slid over to Colombian hitman Alfredo Morelos who provided a cheeky backheeled postage stamp finish, right into the top corner after lurking in the six yard box giving Zlamal no chance whatsoever.
Rangers are clinical
11 goals in 20 appearances for Morelos this season, who has made his debut for his native Colombia this campaign. The Jambos however giving themselves a mountain to climb, 2-0 down after a quarter of an hour played.
The Teddy Bears, after having a potential penalty claim turned down following the ball appearing to come off the arm of Olly Lee, were proving ruthless and put the game beyond Hearts after just over half an hour.
The ball was shipped out to the right hand side once more. James Tavernier, so often a real attacking outlet for the Light Blues, crossing deep for Morelos once more and as the Colombian nodded down towards goal, Zlamal palmed out towards Scott Arfield in the six yard box who had the simplest of tasks to steer the ball home, his third goal in his last five games, as Rangers went 3-0 up on 32 minutes, goodnight Heart of Midlothian.
In the second half, good could have got even better for Rangers. Conor Goldson proving why he’s a centre half, steering the ball over from inside the six yard box from a Candeias cross. Really should have been four as Rangers were looking to make the league leaders suffer.
Bad got to worse for the Jambos as they lost right back Michael Smith following a second bookable offence. The right back making a challenge which he didn’t really need to in fairness. Flanagan and Kent combining down the left and as the full back received from his winger and before looking to link up with Morelos, Smith obstructed the full back and therefore was sent for an early bath, giving John Beaton no other option.
Hearts find a way back?
With around 25 minutes still to play, ten man Hearts would claim a goal back. Jimmy Dunne nodding home his second goal in as many weeks from another Olly Lee set piece but in the grand scheme of things, proved no more than a consolation.
Bobby Zlamal denied his teammate at the wrong end, Uche Ikpeazu nearly turning home a Tavernier corner, the Czech shotstopper alert to deny the big striker. This came before Hearts had an opportunity at the correct end, Goldson was challenged by Naismith and freed Arnaud Djoum. The Cameroonian choosing to go alone, this time denied by McGregor.
A comfortable afternoon for Rangers in the end, their home form in the league is impressive. Gerrard’s side just need to match results on the road before they are to start climbing the table. As for Hearts, they shot themselves in the foot with two awful goals to concede so early on. They remain top but register their first loss in any competition so far this campaign.
After the international break, Rangers head to Hamilton Accies on Sunday 21st October in a 1:30 kick off before hosting Spartak Moscow on Thursday 25th with a 8pm kick off in their third Europa League group match. League leaders Hearts host Aberdeen at Tynecastle on Saturday 20th October in a 3pm kick off in their next league fixture.