Craig Levein rues defensive lapses as Hearts’ unbeaten run ends

Craig Levein felt his team performed well in general play.
Craig Levein felt his team performed well in general play.
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Craig Levein lamented Hearts’ disastrous defending at Ibrox as his team’s unbeaten start to the campaign was ended by Rangers.

The manager felt his side, who played the last half hour with ten men after Michael Smith’s dismissal, gifted the hosts two goals in the opening 12 minutes but generally performed well enough to have taken something from the game had they been more ruthless at both ends of the pitch.

“It’s mixed feelings,” he said. “I’m proud of the players because they kept going for the 90 minutes and didn’t give up but I’m disappointed we gifted Rangers goals and didn’t score when we had the opportunities.”

Rangers took the lead after just two minutes when Hearts’ offside trap went horribly wrong. The defence rushed out when James Tavernier flighted a free-kick into the box but Uche Ikpeazu wasn’t quick enough to get out, playing Alfredo Morelos onside as he rolled the ball to Ryan Kent to knock in the opener. The second, scored by Morelos, came after Demetri Mitchell was caught in possession in his own box.

Asked if he was frustrated at the manner of the opening goal, Levein said: “Yeah, you could say that. We just got it wrong. One player didn’t come out quick enough. For me, it’s a gift.”

Levein was disappointed that the slack start undermined what he felt was generally a competitive display from his team. “This game was about being solid, creating opportunities and taking them,” he said. “We slipped up and gave them two goals - I’d like to see how we’d have done if we didn’t gift them two goals. I didn’t think Rangers were much better than us. We shot ourselves in the foot and gave Rangers the impetus. I also wish we still had 11 players on for the last 20 minutes or so because Rangers got nervous and started going long.”

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard said: “We got a bit complacent after Hearts had a man sent off but we’re very pleased because we beat a very good team who are where they are on merit. We went to war with them.”