Scottish Premiership
KilmarnockKilmarnock1HeartsHeart of Midlothian2

Kilmarnock 1-2 Hearts: Hosts miss chance to close gap on leaders Celtic

By Scott MullenBBC Sport Scotland
Highlights - Kilmarnock 1-2 Hearts

Kilmarnock missed the chance to narrow the gap on Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic to three points as Hearts inflicted their first home loss in three months.

Two goals in five first-half minutes from Sean Clare and Steven Naismith put the visitors into a commanding lead.

Jordan Jones then pulled a goal back from the spot moments before half-time.

Despite a late siege, though, Hearts did enough to claim the victory to move within a point of Aberdeen in fourth.

Kilmarnock could finish the weekend nine points adrift of Celtic if Brendan Rodgers' side win in Perth on Sunday, while a victory for Aberdeen over Hibs would leave Steve Clarke's side in fourth.

Naismith factor felt at Rugby Park

This was dogged stuff on a chilly night in Ayrshire. There was little in the early exchanges to heat up the brave souls who ventured to Rugby Park, a Michael Smith effort flagged for offside on 11 minutes the most exciting moment.

However, the game burst into life as the match ticked towards half-time and it was the visitors who edged into the lead on 38 minutes.

A neat interchange at the edge of the Kilmarnock box enabled Clare to jink past a static home defence and fire a low right-footed shot in off the far post for his first league goal.

It should have come as little surprise that Naismith was again at the heart of the Tynecastle club's crusade to their 13th win of the league campaign as Craig Levein's side soon doubled their lead.

The move was a piece of magic straight off the training ground. A quick free-kick was played out to Jake Mulraney peeling off on the left, and his low cutback found Naismith perfectly as the former Kilmarnock man steered the ball into the net from 12 yards.

Hearts have won 18 out of the 22 games Naismith has played in this season, and his experience was pivotal in Hearts seeing this match out as Kilmarnock tried to come back into things.

Their lifeline came just a minute before the break with Christophe Berra, fresh from signing a new Hearts deal earlier this week, bringing down Alan Power in a clumsy challenge in the box for Jones to convert.

Clarke's men upped their game after the break but their pressure yielded little reward. On-loan Liverpool striker Liam Miller should have done better from a header but, in the end, Hearts were not troubled enough in the final third.

Alan Power
Alan Power went down under the challenge of Christophe Berra to win a penalty

'Clare goal changes game'- analysis

BBC Scotland's Brian McLauchlin at Rugby Park

Opportunities were at a premium in the opening 30 minutes, but goals change games and Clare is now beginning to repay the faith shown in him by Levein. His terrific first touch allowed him the space and time to slot home the opener but his work rate throughout was excellent.

And with John Souttar, Berra and Naismith back in the team after lengthy spells out, Hearts look more like the side who took the Premiership by storm early in the season.

Clarke's team will play poorer and win games. They piled on the pressure in the second half but rarely tested Colin Doyle in the Hearts goal. It may be at the end of the season that there will be very little between the teams.

'It's difficult to get past three big lumps' - reaction

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke: "Fair play to Hearts, they were clever, but if you bring out the yellow cards at the start rather than the end, it allows your creative players to play.

"Disappointing result, but the performance was really good. Hearts came here to make it difficult for us and we fell asleep for the first goal. It is difficult when you have big three lumps defending their goal."

Hearts manager Craig Levein: "It was a typically tough match, but I am really thrilled as it's not an easy place to get anything.

"That's two wins we have down here this season at a place where so many find it difficult."

Line-ups

Kilmarnock

Formation 4-3-3

  • 26Bachmann
  • 2O'Donnell
  • 16Boyd
  • 17Findlay
  • 3TaylorSubstituted forMillarat 78'minutes
  • 27TshibolaBooked at 89minsSubstituted forBroadfootat 89'minutes
  • 8Dicker
  • 6Power
  • 29BurkeSubstituted forMcKenzieat 78'minutes
  • 12NdjoliBooked at 90mins
  • 11JonesBooked at 42mins

Substitutes

  • 1MacDonald
  • 4Bruce
  • 5Broadfoot
  • 7McKenzie
  • 18Waters
  • 19Millar
  • 21Frizzell

Hearts

Formation 3-4-3

  • 13Doyle
  • 4Souttar
  • 3Shaughnessy
  • 6BerraBooked at 72mins
  • 2SmithSubstituted forDikamonaat 85'minutes
  • 10Sutchuin-Djoum
  • 7Bozanic
  • 23MulraneySubstituted forMitchellat 68'minutes
  • 38MorrisonSubstituted forLeeat 45'minutes
  • 14Naismith
  • 9ClareBooked at 84mins

Substitutes

  • 1Zlamal
  • 8Lee
  • 11Mitchell
  • 18MacLean
  • 20Cochrane
  • 28Dikamona
  • 35Keena
Referee:
Steven McLean
Attendance:
5,552

Match Stats

Home TeamKilmarnockAway TeamHearts
Possession
Home56%
Away44%
Shots
Home15
Away6
Shots on Target
Home6
Away3
Corners
Home4
Away0
Fouls
Home14
Away17

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Kilmarnock 1, Heart of Midlothian 2.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Kilmarnock 1, Heart of Midlothian 2.

  3. Booking

    Mikael Ndjoli (Kilmarnock) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Mikael Ndjoli (Kilmarnock).

  5. Post update

    (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  6. Substitution

    Substitution, Kilmarnock. Kirk Broadfoot replaces Aaron Tshibola.

  7. Booking

    Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock).

  9. Post update

    Demetri Mitchell (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock).

  11. Post update

    Demetri Mitchell (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  12. Substitution

    Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Clévid Dikamona replaces Michael Smith because of an injury.

  13. Post update

    Attempt missed. Demetri Mitchell (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from very close range is close, but misses to the left.

  14. Post update

    Stephen O'Donnell (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  15. Booking

    Sean Clare (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Sean Clare (Heart of Midlothian).

  17. Post update

    Attempt saved. Rory McKenzie (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

  18. Post update

    Attempt missed. Liam Millar (Kilmarnock) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

  19. Post update

    Gary Dicker (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  20. Post update

    Foul by Sean Clare (Heart of Midlothian).

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As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Celtic23163455144151
2Rangers23136447182945
3Kilmarnock24136535231245
4Aberdeen23134637241343
5Hearts2413383129242
6St Johnstone2311482628-237
7Hibernian238873324932
8Livingston238692623330
9Motherwell2383122233-1127
10Hamilton2342171449-3514
11Dundee2334161748-3113
12St Mirren2333171646-3012
View full Scottish Premiership table

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