Scottish Premiership
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Scottish Premiership: Heart of Midlothian 1-3 Rangers

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Highlights: Heart of Midlothian 1-3 Rangers

Rangers eased to a seventh consecutive victory over Hearts to ensure Celtic cannot clinch the Scottish Premiership title against Hibernian on Sunday.

It took Steven Gerrard's side only 15 minutes to make their early dominance tell through a Jermain Defoe finish.

Ryan Jack fired the second after being set up by Daniel Candeias.

Nikola Katic's half-volley from Candeias' cross after the break secured the points before Steven MacLean's headed reply.

Second-placed Rangers' second three-goal win over Hearts this month moves the visitors to within eight points of the reigning champions.

Hearts' chances of winning a Europa League place through their Scottish Premiership finish were further diminished as their run without a win over Rangers was extended to nine games.

Absences and Rangers formation undo Hearts

Both sides came into the game buoyed by 3-0 victories - Rangers beating Hearts then Motherwell by the same scoreline as the Edinburgh side against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in their Scottish Cup semi-final.

But Hearts' playing resources are being stretched to the limit and it showed from kick-off against a side who have been coping admirably without suspended top scorer Alfredo Morelos.

Youngsters Callumn Morrison and Aidan Keena had this week been ruled out for the season with knee injuries - and influential midfielder Peter Haring for a couple of weeks - and Hearts' preparations were further hampered minutes before kick-off.

Sean Clare was taken ill in the warm-up, meaning a rare start for Craig Wighton, with Clevid Dikamona added to the bench despite having initially been rested through injury.

While Wighton slotted straight into the Englishman's forward role, Hearts looked out of balance as they struggled to cope with a three-pronged attack that had rewarded Scott Arfield with four goals in his last two Rangers outings.

The reward for the visitors' early dominance came when Jon Flanagan slid in to dispossess a hesitant Wighton and Glen Kamara's superb through ball set up Defoe for a typically clinical finish from the former England striker.

Just as Hearts worked themselves back into the game, with Uche Ikpeazu and Wighton being wayward with their finishes, another slack moment in midfield handed Rangers a second goal.

Jack won the ball from Oliver Bozanic, who was deputising for Haring, and the midfielder followed up by collecting Candeias' pass to finish low into the far corner.

Hearts were caught out again, this time disputing a corner, as Candeias' cross found Katic ghosting in unmarked at the back post.

Fine saves from Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor denied Christophe Berra and Wighton before MacLean finished from a Jake Mulraney cross.

By then, however, Hearts were were well on their way to a third successive league defeat that will do nothing for their confidence as they look ahead to that cup final against Celtic.

Hearts contribute to own demise - analysis

BBC Scotland's Brian McLauchlin at Tynecastle Park

Gerrard certainly appears to have found a system that brings the best out of his players.

It will be interesting to see exactly what the Rangers manager will do when Morelos becomes available again at the conclusion of his suspension.

While his ability in finding the target is unquestionable, will he fit into this team and allow it continue their run of results?

Hearts will look at the enforced change just prior to kick off as one possible reason for their demise. But this was just too easy for the Glasgow visitors.

Too often the ball was given away in Hearts' midfield and their back four time after time was cut open.

Mulraney was the only shining light in the home side, but the failure by his team-mates to find the former Caley Thistle winger meant chances in front of goal were few and far between.

Craig Levein said pre-match he was looking to build momentum ahead of the cup final in five weeks. Nothing could have been further from the truth after this game and, with a trip across the city to take on Hibernian next week, the task will be no easier.

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'There still plenty to play for Hearts to play for' - Craig Levein

'I hope the players haven't switched off' - Reaction

Hearts manager Craig Levein: "We've got a lot to play for between now and the cup final - including places in the team.

"I hope the players haven't switched off after reaching the final.

"Pressing in the way we tried means you go all in. There's no worrying about what's behind you. You just need to go and we were too safe in what we did.

"We didn't commit completely to it and the result is what you saw."

Line-ups

Hearts

  • 1Zlamal
  • 2SmithSubstituted forDikamonaat 83'minutes
  • 4Souttar
  • 6Berra
  • 31BurnsBooked at 63mins
  • 8LeeSubstituted forCochraneat 66'minutes
  • 7Bozanic
  • 15WightonSubstituted forMacLeanat 62'minutes
  • 10Sutchuin-Djoum
  • 23Mulraney
  • 19Ikpeazu

Substitutes

  • 3Shaughnessy
  • 13Doyle
  • 18MacLean
  • 20Cochrane
  • 22Edwards
  • 25Brandon
  • 28Dikamona

Rangers

  • 1McGregor
  • 2Tavernier
  • 19Katic
  • 6Goldson
  • 15Flanagan
  • 8Jack
  • 10DavisSubstituted forPolsterat 87'minutes
  • 18Kamara
  • 21CandeiasSubstituted forMiddletonat 72'minutes
  • 9DefoeBooked at 81minsSubstituted forLaffertyat 83'minutes
  • 37Arfield

Substitutes

  • 3Worrall
  • 11Lafferty
  • 13Foderingham
  • 16Halliday
  • 17McCrorie
  • 25Polster
  • 40Middleton
Referee:
John Beaton
Attendance:
18,212

Match Stats

Home TeamHeartsAway TeamRangers
Possession
Home43%
Away57%
Shots
Home11
Away12
Shots on Target
Home6
Away5
Corners
Home6
Away2
Fouls
Home13
Away10

Live Text

Match ends, Heart of Midlothian 1, Rangers 3.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Heart of Midlothian 1, Rangers 3.

Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Nikola Katic.

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

Foul by Kyle Lafferty (Rangers).

Foul by Uche Ikpeazu (Heart of Midlothian).

Matt Polster (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Harry Cochrane (Heart of Midlothian).

Jon Flanagan (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt saved. Scott Arfield (Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Delay in match Nikola Katic (Rangers) because of an injury.

Foul by Uche Ikpeazu (Heart of Midlothian).

Nikola Katic (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Rangers. Matt Polster replaces Steven Davis.

Foul by Clévid Dikamona (Heart of Midlothian).

Scott Arfield (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution

Substitution, Rangers. Kyle Lafferty replaces Jermain Defoe.

Substitution

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Clévid Dikamona replaces Michael Smith.

Attempt blocked. Glenn Middleton (Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Booking

Jermain Defoe (Rangers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Bobby Burns (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jermain Defoe (Rangers).

James Tavernier (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Steven MacLean (Heart of Midlothian).

Goal!

Goal! Heart of Midlothian 1, Rangers 3. Steven MacLean (Heart of Midlothian) header from very close range to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Jake Mulraney.

Substitution

Substitution, Rangers. Glenn Middleton replaces Daniel Candeias.

Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Allan McGregor.

Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Connor Goldson.

Substitution

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Harry Cochrane replaces Olly Lee.

Attempt missed. Scott Arfield (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

Michael Smith (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Jon Flanagan (Rangers).

Foul by Steven MacLean (Heart of Midlothian).

Connor Goldson (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Booking

Bobby Burns (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Bobby Burns (Heart of Midlothian).

Jermain Defoe (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Steven MacLean replaces Craig Wighton.

Attempt saved. Uche Ikpeazu (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Foul by Jermain Defoe (Rangers).

goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Celtic33245471175477
2Rangers34209576255169
3Aberdeen34187953371661
4Kilmarnock341610846291758
5Hibernian331410949341552
6Hearts34155143944-550
7St Johnstone34145153444-1047
8Motherwell34135163848-1044
9Livingston34119143636042
10Hamilton3475222270-4826
11St Mirren3466222762-3524
12Dundee3446242570-4518
View full Scottish Premiership table

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