Hearts continued their fine start to the George Burley era with a fourth straight league win at home to Aberdeen as the Jambos moved three points clear of Rangers at the top of the SPL.
Czech duo Rudi Skacel and Michal Pospisil claimed a goal each in a comfortable win over the Dons as the home side maintained their 100 per cent record.
Hearts started the game brightly with Paul Hartley playing a neat one-two with left-back Takis Fyssas but his cross was easily claimed by Ryan Esson. Roman Bednar then broke free on the opposite wing and his low cross caused defender Russell Anderson problems, as he sliced his attempted clearance high into the air, but the move came to an end when Skacel pushed Zander Diamond in the back.
Aberdeen began to settle down as the first period progressed with former Hearts player Scott Severin pulling the strings in the midfield for the visitors. Gary Dempsey was then afforded time and space to take on the Hearts rearguard in the 16th minute but his left-footed strike deflected off Robbie Neilson and landed comfortably in Craig Gordon’s arms.
Just as Aberdeen began to take control, Hearts went ahead in the 20th minute with clinical finishing from Czech Republic internationalist Skacel after he rode two challenges inside the box.
The midfielder notched his fourth goal in as many games after picking up a loose ball inside the area to fire a low shot under Esson.
Hearts skipper Steven Pressley should have doubled the home side’s lead in the 32nd minute after Skacel’s corner somehow fell to the unmarked Scotland defender at the back post, but he lacked composure as he blasted the ball over the bar.
Dons manager Jimmy Calderwood was forced to replace the influential Anderson with Scott Muirhead after the break, with blood pouring from the defender’s face as he disappeared up the tunnel.
With Severin being forced to play in a more defensive role following the substitution of Anderson, Hearts began to dominate in the midfield area.
Skacel saw a lot of the ball on the left wing as he gave Chris Clark a difficult time. In the 72nd minute, the on-loan Marseille player edged past the wing-back but his cross along the six-yard box was just too strong for Edgaras Jankauskas and the ball drifted away to safety.
Burley introduced Pospisil for Bednar as the hosts looked to add a second and he got involved immediately, delivering a deep cross which was just too strong for Jankauskas.
The Czech hitman was again at the centre of the action as his cross was volleyed onto the post by Jamie McAllister following a superb move that also involved Fyssas and Skacel.
Pospisil made sure of the points in the 85th minute after he ran onto Jankauskas’ knock down to volley high into the net from 18 yards.
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Fyssas, Pressley, Webster, Hartley, Brellier, Mikoliunas, Skacel, Jankauskas, Bednar