ABERDEEN won for the first time in five-and-a-half years at Tynecastle to maintain a 100 per cent start to the season.
Two goals by David Goodwillie and one from Niall McGinn had the Premiership leaders 3-0 ahead at half-time. Igor Rossi reduced the deficit after the interval but Hearts were left nursing their wounds after a third successive loss.
A blistering first-half performance was the catalyst to Aberdeen’s success – their first in Gorgie since January 2010. They led 3-0 at the interval and no-one inside a sold-out Tynecastle could begrudge them such an overwhelming lead. The second half was a more even affair, with Hearts probing for more goals after Rossi’s early strike. The well-organised and efficient visiting defence wasn’t for conceding any more, though.
That discipline has been a major factor in Aberdeen recording eight wins from eight league matches so far this season. They have aggression, a touch of flair, plenty pace and a clinical edge in the final third – as shown in their frequent counter-attacks. In short, they were simply too strong for Hearts in this encounter.
Both managers made four changes to their starting line-ups from last weekend. Robbie Neilson recalled Blazej Augustyn, Miguel Pallardo and Jamie Walker after injury, with Gavin Reilly also reinstated. Derek McInnes brought Shay Logan, Paul Quinn, Peter Pawlett and Goodwillie back in for Aberdeen.
Eyebrows were raised about Goodwillie’s inclusion ahead of the free-scoring Adam Rooney, but the selection was justified inside nine minutes. McGinn delivered a free-kick from wide on the left which the striker attacked powerfully and headed downwards. Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander got a hand to the ball but couldn’t prevent it nestling in his net for the opening goal – followed by a deafening roar from the 1475 travelling fans.
McInnes instantly changed his formation from 3-4-1-2 to 4-2-3-1 in the wake of the goal. That allowed Aberdeen to play slightly deeper and use their pace on the counter-attack. They moved 2-0 ahead on 23 minutes. Ryan Jack’s loping pass out the left found McGinn, he skipped away from Augustyn all too easily near the goal-line before angling a perfect drive over Alexander and into the far corner of the net.
Hearts looked rattled at that stage and needed to compose themselves. They were toiling to gain control of midfield, where Pallardo was playing for the first time this season following an Achilles problem. They began pressing more as the interval neared. Rossi’s header from Walker’s corner was netbound until Logan blocked. The hosts then appealed vehemently for a penalty when Prince Buaben’s cross appeared to strike Logan’s arm, but referee Bobby Madden was unmoved.
Seconds from the break, Aberdeen effectively finished this game as a contest with a third goal. Another break following a Hearts free-kick ended with McGinn skipping clear of Pallardo – who by then had been booked – to square for Goodwillie. Alexander slipped going across his goal and the striker stroked the ball into the corner of the net from around 12 yards.
Hearts were booed from the field as the half-time whistle sounded but re-emerged with a sense of purpose. They scored six minutes after the restart when Walker’s corner was scrambled home by Rossi from close range for the Brazilian’s first goal in maroon. That got the home support going once again.
Aberdeen briefly got back into their rhythm and forced Alexander into two good saves. Pawlett ought to have scored from Graeme Shinnie’s through pass but the goalkeeper blocked his rather tame attempt at goal. Moments later, Alexander pushed McGinn’s shot from a corner with his defence still looking disjointed under pressure.
With 20 minutes left, Hearts began to force the pace. Callum Paterson’s deflected free-kick crashed against the Aberdeen crossbar before the defender tried an acrobatic attempt from substitute Sam Nicholson’s corner. Alim Ozturk clipped a free-kick towards goal which bounced just wide of Danny Ward’s left post, and there was a volley by Osman Sow which the goalkeeper held comfortably.
The attempts were in vain, though, as Aberdeen held on for yet another victory to add to their recent collection.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, Augustyn, Rossi; Buaben (King 83), Pallardo; Reilly (Nicholson 46), Walker, Juanma; Sow. Unused subs: Hamilton, McGhee, Swanson, Smith, McKirdy.
Aberdeen (3-4-1-2): Ward; Taylor, Quinn, Considine; Logan, Jack, McLean, Shinnie; Pawlett (Rooney 65); McGinn (McLaughlin 90), Goodwillie (Parker 83). Unused subs: Brown, Flood, Smith, Robson.
Referee: Bobby Madden.