Aberdeen 2-0 Hearts: Dons too strong for weak Hearts

Craig Levein and Jon Daly in conversation during Aberdeen's win against Hearts.

Craig Levein and Jon Daly in conversation during Aberdeen's win against Hearts.

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Aberdeen put Hearts to the sword at Pittodrie to prevent Celtic winning the Ladbrokes Premiership early. Shay Logan's first-half header and Jonny Hayes' strike after the break ensured a comprehensive victory for Derek McInnes' side - who had substitute Jayden Stockley sent off late on.

A Hearts win in front of the BT Sport cameras would have given the Glasgow club an opportunity to clinch the league by beating Dundee tomorrow. However, from the outset Aberdeen looked sharper and more cohesive in attack and could easily have scored more.
Logan headed home Niall McGinn's cross unmarked, and Hayes was presented with the second goal after a scuffed backpass by Tasos Avlonitis. It was a difficult afternoon for Hearts, who didn't produce the kind of display hoped for following last week's 4-0 destruction of Hamilton.
Sam Nicholson's early run and shot tested Joe Lewis in the Aberdeen goal. Then, after a period of Aberdeen pressure, Nicholson sent another effort curling over the crossbar in the 15th minute when he ought to have scored. Hearts were to rue that chance when the hosts moved ahead on six minutes later.
Persistently poor forward distribution from defence by Hearts was allowing Aberdeen to regain possession time and time again. It was a matter of when, not if, they capitalised. From Niall McGinn's left-sided cross, Logan charged in towards the six-yard box unmarked to head comfortably into the net without a challenge.
Aberdeen proceeded to dominate the remainder of the first period. McGinn, Kenny McLean and Hayes all caused problems running directly at the visiting defence. When Hearts did manage to move towards the opposite end, they suffered from striker Esmael Goncalves being too isolated.
Television footage showed the Tynecastle director of football Craig Levein in deep conversation with his youth coach, Jon Daly, in the main stand during the first half. Daly then headed down to the visitors' technical area to pass on information and Levein went into the Hearts dressing room during the interval.
He would undoubtedly have been dissatisfied by the team's first-half performance, as would head coach Ian Cathro. Improvement was vital if Hearts were to take anything from this encounter but they continued ceding possession inside their own half of the field.
An offside flag denied Adam Rooney Aberdeen's second goal shortly after the restart. McLean then hit a rasping drive which soared narrowly over Hamilton's crossbar. Most inside Pittodrie would have sensed another goal coming and Hearts handed it on a plate to Hayes on the hour mark.
Avlonitis' backpass was woefully short and the alert Hayes darted in to round Hamilton and slot into an empty net. That effectively ended the match as a contest, with McLean close to adding a third from 25 yards minutes later. Hayes then stung Hamilton's palms with a thunderous left-footed effort.
Lewis had barely been exposed at the other end but did react quickly to smother an attempt from Goncalves inside the last 15 minutes. A third goal wouldn't have flattered the home side but, despite attempts by McGinn and Ash Taylor, they had to settle for two.
The one negative for McInnes was the late sending off of Stockley. He and Nowak ran for a loose ball and the striker turned to swing his arm at the Pole. Referee Steven McLean had little choice but to produce a straight red card for violent conduct. A shoving match ensued involving players from both sides, making for a tetchy end to the afternoon.

Aberdeen (4-2-3-1): Lewis; Logan, Taylor, O'Connor, Considine; Jack, Shinnie; McGinn, McLean, Hayes; Rooney.
Subs
76: Stockley for Rooney
83: Christie for Hayes
87: Ross for McGinn
Unused subs: Alexander, Pawlett, Wright, Storey
Hearts (4-4-2): Hamilton; Struna, Nowak, Avlonitis, Sowah; Cowie, Tziolis, Djoum; Nicholson, Goncalves, Walker.
Subs
65: Johnsen for Djoum
75: Kitchen for Tziolis
87: Martin for Walker
Unused subs: Noring, Rherras, Hughes, Choulay.
Referee: Steven McLean.
Attendance: 12,178.