Scottish Premiership
Hearts2Rangers1

Heart of Midlothian 2-1 Rangers: Debutant Liam Boyce inspires defeat of title chasers

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Highlights: Heart of Midlothian 2-1 Rangers

Rangers' title hopes suffered a blow as Liam Boyce's late debut goal gave battling bottom side Hearts a comeback victory in the Scottish Premiership.

Steven Gerrard's team, who remain five points behind Celtic with a game in hand, went ahead when Ryan Kent fired high into the net after the break.

But the home side replied as Boyce set up Steven Naismith to chip home.

The midweek signing from Burton Albion's deflected shot won it for the home side with seven minutes remaining.

It gave manager Daniel Stendel a first league victory, ending Hearts' run of 10 league games without a win, five of them at home, and taking them to within a point of Hamilton Academical.

Defeat in Gerrard's 100th game in charge ends Rangers' run of six consecutive victories and seven without a defeat.

Tale of two signings at Tynecastle

With Gerrard's side arriving in the capital seeking a fourth consecutive away win, unbeaten in 10 on the road, having won their two most recent meetings with Hearts by an 8-0 aggregate, unbeaten in four visits to Tynecastle and without a loss in 12 meetings between the sides since February 2017, nothing hinted at what was to follow.

Despite those statistics, Stendel promised to play on the front foot and being true to his word extended even to the bench - where there was not a defender in sight.

Not satisfied with the promise shown on Wednesday, Boyce and fellow new signing Toby Sibbick were among five changes made by the German from the 0-0 draw away to Ross County.

Only 20, natural right-back Sibbick had been a regular under Stendel at Barnsley but had not played since losing his place after the Championship side lost 22 goals in his past nine starts.

However, the loan signing was employed in a protective role in front of the back four as Hearts adopted the high press preferred by the German, and the Englishman's commanding presence played a part in preventing Rangers getting into their stride despite the system being fully anticipated by counterpart Gerrard.

Whether by design or not, Rangers were forced to play on the counter-attack and, although Kent lashed over in the opening moments and Joe Aribo stabbed another good chance wide, it was Hearts who came closest to scoring before the break.

Boyce, who scored 14 goals in 34 appearances for League One outfit Burton this season before his midweek transfer, flicked the ball into the net through goalkeeper Allan McGregor's legs only for the flag to cut short the Northern Ireland striker's celebrations.

Gerrard had seen enough by half-time and took off Ryan Jack and Jon Flanagan, who had both been booked, sending on Scott Arfield and Matt Polster, and seeing the deadlock broken immediately.

Stendel had taken off Aidy White at the break and, with Sibbick looking less comfortable filling in at left-back, the reorganised defence was exposed as Aribo played the ball cleverly into the stride of Kent from Borna Barisic's low cross and the winger powerfully dispatched into the far corner.

Rangers were suddenly on top, but Hearts were back in the game 10 minutes later when Glen Halkett prodded forward after Glen Kamara dallied on the ball and Boyce cut it back perfectly for former Rangers forward Naismith to chip neatly into the far corner.

With a new wave of optimism igniting Tynecastle, substitute Conor Washington had a shot cleared off the line while Jermain Defoe failed to celebrate news of his permanent move from Bournemouth with a winner as he skied over at the other end.

It was to be Hearts' new signing who had the last word, Boyce's low drive taking a nick off Barisic's heel to inflict Rangers' first domestic away defeat since the final game of last season and stretch Stendel's unbeaten run to four games.

Steven Gerrard statistics

Man of the match - Craig Halkett

BBC Scotland's Brian McLauchlin at Tynecastle

All the plaudits must go to the Hearts players who as a man put their bodies on the line for the 90 minutes.

Boyce led the line brilliantly on his debut and was ably assisted by the new club captain Naismith.

Andrew Irving never put a foot wrong in midfield, but the award of man of the match must go to centre-half Halkett.

The former Livingston defender was immense throughout and never gave the talents of Defoe a sniff of goal and looks as if he is finding the type of form he was showing before his injury earlier in the season.

Line-ups

Hearts

  • 23Castro Pereira
  • 8Clare
  • 26Halkett
  • 4Souttar
  • 3WhiteSubstituted forBozanicat 45'minutes
  • 35SibbickSubstituted forIkpeazuat 75'minutes
  • 40Irving
  • 27MooreSubstituted forWashingtonat 59'minutes
  • 14Naismith
  • 41HendersonBooked at 68mins
  • 29Boyce

Substitutes

  • 1Zlamal
  • 7Bozanic
  • 9Washington
  • 10Walker
  • 19Ikpeazu
  • 77Meshino
  • 99Avdijaj

Rangers

  • 1McGregor
  • 15FlanaganBooked at 28minsSubstituted forPolsterat 45'minutes
  • 6Goldson
  • 19Katic
  • 31Barisic
  • 8JackBooked at 42minsSubstituted forArfieldat 45'minutes
  • 10Davis
  • 18KamaraSubstituted forOjoat 73'minutes
  • 17Aribo
  • 9Defoe
  • 14Kent

Substitutes

  • 4Edmundson
  • 11Ojo
  • 13Foderingham
  • 16Halliday
  • 22Jones
  • 25Polster
  • 37Arfield
Referee:
Steven McLean
Attendance:
18,539

Match Stats

Home TeamHeartsAway TeamRangers
Possession
Home54%
Away46%
Shots
Home8
Away11
Shots on Target
Home5
Away2
Corners
Home4
Away6
Fouls
Home18
Away7

Live Text

Match ends, Heart of Midlothian 2, Rangers 1.

Full Time

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

Foul by Liam Boyce (Heart of Midlothian).

Connor Goldson (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Conor Washington (Heart of Midlothian).

Steven Davis (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.

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

Foul by Scott Arfield (Rangers).

Foul by Uche Ikpeazu (Heart of Midlothian).

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

Foul by Liam Boyce (Heart of Midlothian).

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

Goal!

Goal! Heart of Midlothian 2, Rangers 1. Liam Boyce (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.

Attempt missed. Jermain Defoe (Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right.

Attempt blocked. Conor Washington (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Steven Naismith.

Attempt missed. Borna Barisic (Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Foul by Uche Ikpeazu (Heart of Midlothian).

Ryan Kent (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Andrew Irving (Heart of Midlothian).

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

Substitution

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Uche Ikpeazu replaces Toby Sibbick because of an injury.

Attempt saved. Oliver Bozanic (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Substitution

Substitution, Rangers. Sheyi Ojo replaces Glen Kamara.

Corner, Rangers. Conceded by John Souttar.

Booking

Euan Henderson (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Euan Henderson (Heart of Midlothian).

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

Foul by Craig Halkett (Heart of Midlothian).

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

Liam Boyce (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Steven Davis (Rangers).

Attempt missed. Joe Aribo (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Toby Sibbick.

Substitution

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Conor Washington replaces Lewis Moore.

Goal!

Goal! Heart of Midlothian 1, Rangers 1. Steven Naismith (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Liam Boyce.

Borna Barisic (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Sean Clare (Heart of Midlothian).

Foul by Matt Polster (Rangers).

Euan Henderson (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Celtic22191261144758
2Rangers21172255134253
3Motherwell2313283427741
4Aberdeen2310763027337
5Livingston238783531431
6Hibernian237883137-629
7Kilmarnock2365121929-1023
8St Johnstone215881836-1823
9Ross County2257102245-2322
10St Mirren2355131730-1320
11Hamilton2346132340-1718
12Hearts2338122036-1617
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