Daniel Stendel: Liam Boyce asked to be subbed but I kept him on to score Hearts' winner against Rangers
New striker's transfer pays dividends on Tynecastle debut
Hearts manager Daniel Stendel revealed new signing Liam Boyce scored the winner against Rangers after asking to be substituted with an injury.
The striker only completed a £150,000 transfer from Burton Albion on Saturday and marked his Tynecastle Park debut with the decisive goal after 83 minutes of the 2-1 victory against Rangers.
The result sees Hearts close to within a point of second-bottom Hamilton at the foot of the Ladbrokes Premiership and leaves Boyce an instant hero with supporters.
Two knocks to his quad left him limping around during the closing stages, but Stendel had already made three substitutions and told the new recruit he had to finish the match.
"He came in late on Saturday and did not train with the team. We were convinced he is the right player in the right place for us," said the German. "The goal was great but you can see from the performance in the first half that he improved our game so much.
"He was really tired. After 65 minutes he asked to be substituted but we could not substitute him or we would have ten players. I said: 'You need to to stay.' It was the right decision and this is the reason why signed him. He has the right personality for our team and can be an important player."
Ryan Kent put Rangers ahead shortly after half-time but captain Steven Naismith brought Hearts level ten minutes later. Boyce's winner took a slight deflection off the visiting defender Borna Barisic but he and Naismith developed an instant understanding during the match.
"They are both experienced and they play well together," said Stendel. "That was the idea. It was not easy to decide that Naismith played. He is our skipper but he was injured for a long time.
"We have had three games in a week but we decided in the morning with him that he would play. I need my skipper on the pitch. It's important for the players and the team. He played so well and scored.
"It was a good performance from my team. We had some luck in some situations that Rangers did not score the second goal. We believed we could change the result and we came back. I am very happy that the players got success for their hard work over the last few weeks. It is time we changed the situation in the table."
Stendel admitted his squad were slightly despondent following Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Ross County. Victory against Rangers gave confidence a significant lift.
"After Wednesday I told the players to believe my way is the right way. I can understand it is not so easy when you don’t win games but we have finally brought success back to Tynecastle," added Stendel.
"In every aspect of our game against Rangers we were terrific. What was most important was that we still believed we could win when we went behind. In the last ten minutes the fight from everybody on the pitch was great.
"This was three points we needed in our situation.The players were down after Ross County but we are still unbeaten in 2020 and hopefully that record can last a long time."
Asked if what fans saw against Rangers was the real Hearts, Stendel smiled and replied: "Exactly."