Reaction from Ibrox: Hearts sliding deeper into trouble

Relegation-threatened Jambos are swept aside with minimal fuss at Ibrox

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 2nd December 2019, 8:55 am
Christophe Berra scored an own goal

Hearts suffered the nightmare before Christmas at Ibrox and could offer few complaints after a 5-0 lashing by Rangers.

The danger of entering eight games in December without a permanent manager was illustrated by the manner of the defeat and must surely accelerate owner Ann Budge’s search for one.

Those in maroon were second best as Rangers coasted to a straightforward victory to keep pace with Celtic atop the Ladbrokes Premiership. At the opposite end of the table, the harrowing sight of Hearts sitting joint-bottom continues.

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The Edinburgh club have conceded 12 goals in four matches since sacking Craig Levein more than four weeks ago. Yet they seem no closer to appointing a replacement. Negotiations with the former Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel have yet to reach a conclusion and Austin MacPhee continues in interim charge meantime.

Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent, a Christophe Berra own goal and two strikes by substitute Greg Stewart consigned them to a worrying defeat in Glasgow.

“Rangers are a very good team and in spells we looked okay but the goals came at a bad time. We have to be disappointed with them. The way they went in, from our point of view, wasn’t good enough,” admitted the Hearts forward Steven Naismith.

“I wouldn’t say there is confusion [because of the delay appointing a manager]. Our job is to do it on the pitch and it’s not happening. Austin is taking the team at the moment so we go out and try to do what him and the coaching staff want. This performance isn’t down to who was in

charge.

“Clarity on the manager will come when it comes. The club have made it clear they will look for the right man rather than a shotgun reaction to get somebody in quick. We have enough experience in the squad that should be able to deal with this.

“There is a lot of naivety and that needs to change. It’s not going to change overnight. We need to work hard and be stronger as a unit defensively. The games coming up this month will fundamentally decide what happens for us this season.”

With Michael Smith ill, Hearts deployed a 3-5-2 system at Ibrox and hoped to hit Rangers on the counter-attack following the Glasgow club’s midweek European exertions in Rotterdam. It took merely 12 minutes for that plan to unravel. Borna Barisic’s left-sided cross saw Morelos climb above Aaron Hickey at the back post to head his team into the lead.

That advantage would have doubled on the half-hour mark but for Craig Halkett, back in the Hearts side after two months out injured. He blocked a certain goal after Morelos controlled James Tavernier’s cross and spun to shoot past visiting goalkeeper Joel Pereira.

Hearts fashioned their only opportunity ten minutes before the interval. Smith’s deputy, Jamie Brandon, collected possession and drove through a group of bodies to the byline before a driven low cross. Uche Ikpeazu slid in but could only prod the ball wide of Allan McGregor’s left post.

Within seconds, the Edinburgh club were punished for failing to convert as Rangers moved 2-0 ahead. Joe Aribo’s cross from the right was comfortably converted by Kent on the run from seven yards out. That earned the hosts a cushion they were never likely to relinquish.

Connor Goldson headed a glaring chance wide early in the second half from Barisic’s free-kick. Morelos then sprinted through on to Kent’s threaded pass before shooting into the Copland Road Stand.

The pattern of play largely remained similar – Rangers probing and Hearts not really threatening. The blue-shirted midfield triumvirate of Scott Arfield, Steven Davis and Glen Kamara were far more dynamic than their direct opponents Jamie Walker, Glenn Whelan and Oliver Bozanic.

When the third goal arrived on 64 minutes, it was no real surprise. Tavernier broke through the maroon defensive line to deliver a low cross from the right. Berra instinctively jabbed a toe out and inadvertently turned the ball into his own net from six yards out.

Rangers added a fourth ten minutes from the end. Hickey was dispossessed on his own byline by the home substitute Sheyi Ojo, whose shot from an acute angle was parried by Pereira. The ball landed perfectly for Stewart to stroke home from close

range.

The fifth was a howler on Pereria’s part as the Portuguese keeper spilled Stewart’s tame header, which spun backwards into the goal to complete Hearts’ misery.

Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Arfield, Davis, Kamara (Stewart 74); Aribo, Morelos (Defoe 67), Kent (Ojo 67). Substitutes not used: Foderingham, Jack, Flanagan, Katic.

Hearts (3-5-2): Pereira; Halkett, Berra, Hickey; Brandon, Walker (Damour 70), Whelan, Bozanic, White (Mulraney 77); Ikpeazu (Meshino 70), Naismith. Substitutes not used: Zlamal, Clare,

MacLean, Irving.