Hearts moved six points clear of Rangers at the top of the SPFL Championship after cruising to victory over Livingston.
With the Ibrox club inactive until tomorrow night against Hibs, their Edinburgh rivals took full advantage. Soufian El Hassnaoui’s first Hearts goal complemented a Jamie Walker strike, an Osman Sow double and one from substitute James Keatings to produce a comfortable win.
BBC Alba’s cameras were at Tynecastle to broadcast this match live and their viewers saw a powerful home performance overwhelm Livingston in the first half. Hearts were 3-0 ahead and in full command by the interval. The result also intensified the pressure on Rangers to win their encounter against Hibs to keep pace at the league summit.
The West Lothian club contributed to their own downfall with poor defending and allowing their opponents too much time in the final third. It was not what manager John McGlynn, returning to his former employers for the first time, wanted to see.
Goal attempts from Callum Paterson, Sow and Walker inside the opening ten minutes were evidence of Hearts’ appetite for this fixture. They were ahead inside quarter of an hour. El Hassnaoui collected Sam Nicholson’s pass outside the penalty area and spun to dispatch a precise low finish into the bottom right corner of Livingston’s net.
Alim Ozturk’s 25-yard free-kick rebounded off the post on 29 minutes but El Hassnaoui could not convert the rebound. However, a minute later Hearts did double their advantage. Walker cut in from the left and managed to squeeze his shot past the Livingston goalkeeper Darren Jamieson from an acute angle with the aid of a deflection. Livingston were down to ten men at that point, with left-back Jason Talbot having gone off with a head gash after colliding with Sow. He did not re-appear and was replaced by David Robertson.
Jordan White sent the visitors’ best chance of the first half over the crossbar from Mark Burchill’s 35th-minute cutback. That was one of the few times they had managed to open up the Hearts defence in a one-sided opening half. By the time the whistle sounded at the interval, the West Lothian club had conceded again. Burton O’Brien’s miss-hit backpass was seized upon by Sow, who had no problem knocking the ball home from around 16 yards.
Burton O’Brien’s 25-yard free-kick arced wide after the restart as Livingston tried to regain some kind of foothold in the proceedings. On the hour mark, Burchill sprinted on to White’s flick in behind the Hearts defence but could only clip his shot wide of target as he approached goalkeeper Neil Alexander.
The hosts resumed control fairly quickly after that and went in pursuit of a fourth goal. The dynamic Morgaro Gomis strode forward to crack a 25-yard effort off the Livingston’s crossbar before Jamieson threw himself to the right to push Sow’s back flick for a corner. The goalkeeper produced another fine stop to deny substitute Billy King moments later, then parried a first-time shot by another sub, Keatings.
At that stage only Jamieson was preventing a mauling for Livingston. His one-handed stop from Keatings on 79 minutes was as good as any in this match after a sublime through pass by Gomis. At the opposite end, White headed narrowly over the Hearts crossbar following a corner. Sow passed up a glaring chance for a fourth goal when he rounded the goalkeeper one-on-one and tried to tee up Keatings, only for the cross to be cleared.
On 87 minutes, the fourth did arrive. King fed Dale Carrick, whose cross was slotted home confidently by Keatings. A fifth put the icing on the cake as Sow impishly flicked Paterson’s swinging right-sided cross into the bottom corner to complete a convincing afternoon’s work for those in maroon.
Hearts (4-4-2): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, Wilson, McHattie; Nicholson (King 62), Buaben, Gomis, Walker (Carrick 62); El Hassnaoui (Keatings 76), Sow. Subs not used: Gallacher, Holt, McGhee, Eckersley.
Livingston (4-1-3-2): Jamieson; Ky Jacobs, Fordyce, Sives, Talbot (Robertson 30); O’Brien; Burchill (McKenna 62), Ky Jacobs, Hippolyte (Mullen 62); Glen, White. Subs not used: Grant, Ogleby, Beaumont, Rutherford.