HEARTS earned their second win over Aberdeen this season to reduce the deficit at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership to 13 points.
They overhauled Niall McGinn’s opening goal with strikes from Jamie Walker and Callum Paterson to turn this match on its head following the dismissal of the Pittodrie midfielder Barry Robson. Ryan Stevenson then lashed an emphatic third in stoppage time to send the travelling fans home in elation.
The red card came early in the second period with Aberdeen leading 1-0 and changed the complexion of the match. McGinn had scored and then had a penalty saved by Jamie MacDonald, which he was later rue. Walker’s equaliser injected Hearts with some much-needed belief, and the winger created Paterson’s goal 16 minutes from the end. Stevenson’s late strike into the top corner on the break sealed a dramatic 90 minutes.
Aberdeen had kept four successive clean sheets prior to this encounter. However, a defiant performance from the visitors secured them three points - and their first league victory since they beat the same opponents at Tynecastle in August.
Aberdeen enjoyed plenty of possession early on but Hearts broke forward after quarter of an hour. Kevin McHattie’s cross bounced into Stevenson’s path, however his first-time shot was beaten away by the in-form Jamie Langfield.
After cautions for both Jamie Hamill and Willo Flood, the Aberdeen support screamed for a penalty on 22 minutes when Peter Pawlett seemed to be tripped by Hamill inside the box. Referee Iain Brines allowed play to continue but it was already clear this was to be a keenly contested game.
Walker stung Langield’s palms before the hosts were driven into the lead by McGinn. Robson - on for the injured Flood - delivered a corner which Hearts failed to clear at the first attempt. The ball fell kindly for the Northern Irishman to lash beyond MacDonald from 16 yards - greeted by a deafening roar inside Pittodrie.
Aberdeen then took complete control. They eventually earned a penalty after 38 minutes. Pawlett’s shot struck the face of Dylan McGowan on the Hearts goal line seconds earlier, and then Jordan McGhee was penalised for handling McGinn’s cross. After some vehement protesting, McGinn’s penalty was pushed away by MacDonald low to the goalkeeper’s left.
Only 1-0 down at half-time, Hearts were still in this encounter. Their cause was aided when Robson was ordered off nine minutes into the second period. Having been booked for encroaching at a free-kick in the first half, he received a second yellow card for bodychecking Jason Holt.
Sensing a chance to press forward against ten men, Hearts manager Gary Locke introduced substitutes David Smith and Callum Tapping. Smith had an effort from Danny Wilson’s cross moments later which Langfield pushed over his crossbar - only for a goal kick to be awarded.
The equaliser arrived soon after. Walker collected Stevenson’s head flick and, as Langfield emerged from his goal, the winger calmly flicked the ball past him and scored. It was a goal virtually from nothing, but something for Hearts to try and build on.
That is precisely what they did. On 74 minutes, with the visitors enjoying their best spell of the game, Walker galloped past Michael Hector to the byline. His low cutback found Paterson for a calm left-footed finish to turn the game on its head.
Aberdeen’s pressure increased thereafter, but Hearts broke clear in stoppage time as Callum Paterson fed Stevenson. His run preceded a powerful finish high into Langfield’s top right corner to seal the game.
Aberdeen (4-3-3): Langfield; Hector (Smith 83), Anderson, Reynolds, Considine; Jack, Flood (Robson 23), Pawlett; Hayes, Zola (Vernon 57), McGinn. Subs: Weaver, Shaughnessy, Wylde, Low.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): MacDonald; McGhee, McGowan, Wilson, McHattie; Robinson (Smith 60), Hamill; Paterson, Holt (Tapping 60), Walker (B King 90); Stevenson. Subs: Ridgers, McKay, Tapping, Nicholson, Oliver.
Referee: Iain Brines.