Livingston 1-0 Hearts: Defeat for Jambos ahead of Europa Conference League opener

Livingston produced a determined display to secure a narrow victory over Hearts ahead of the Edinburgh club’s Europa Conference League debut on Thursday.

Christian Montano’s first-half goal settled this affair at the Tony Macaroni Arena and there could be little argument that the hosts deserved all three points. The created a number of chances during the 90 minutes and might have scored more. In contrast, Hearts looked toothless in attack.

New signing Stephen Humphrys was granted a cinch Premiership debut two days after arriving on loan from Wigan Athletic. There was no place in the matchday squad for goalkeeper Zander Clark, who signed a three-year deal as a free agent on Friday evening.

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Livingston went about their business diligently after three straight defeats and their application levels indicated they were in no mood to relinquish the lead after Montano scored.

After four defeats from their last five matches in all competitions, Hearts wanted to regain momentum in West Lothian before beginning the Europa Conference League group phase on Thursday against Istanbul Basaksehir. Their performance didn’t reach the required heights and they finished the afternoon with just one shot on target.

Livingston fielded the former Tynecastle forward Esmael Goncalves knowing they hadn’t beaten the Edinburgh club in eight meetings since a 5-0 victory over Craig Levein’s Hearts team in 2018.

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Hearts fashioned a fantastic opening on 11 minutes when Stephen Kingsley’s left-sided run and cross found Barrie McKay. His first-time disguised pass to Jorge Grant inside the home penalty area preceded a rash finish by the Englishman.

The left side offered the visitors plenty early space as Gary Mackay-Steven delivered several dangerous first-half balls. However, the game’s first goal belonged to Livingston on 28 minutes.

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Livingston’s Stephane Omeonga and Hearts’ Alex Cochrane in actin during Saturday's match.

Toby Sibbick fouled Joel Nouble and Jason Holt’s floated free-kick found the unmarked Montano inside the penalty area. He had time to control before dispatching a calm finish beyond Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon as maroon shirts appealed in vain for an offside flag.

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And 1-0 should have been 2-0 when James Penrice sprinted in behind Lewis Neilson to collect a long ball. He squared to Goncalves in space around ten yards out but the Portuguese’s sliding attempt went wide of the post.

Livingston certainly had the impetus and caused problems down Hearts’ right with Nouble hanging wide to trouble full-back Sibbick. There was also no shortage of fouls for referee Willie Collum to contend with in an increasingly competitive affair.

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As the second half progressed Livingston’s desire to contest every ball increased. They protected their advantage and stifled any Hearts threat, the Tynecastle side consequently finding it difficult to create clear goalscoring chances. A number of slack passes under little pressure didn’t help.

An impromptu backheeled effort from substitute Kurtis Guthrie was kept out by Gordon, and the goalkeeper then pushed a powerful Scott Pittman drive over his crossbar.

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Hearts substitute Alan Forrest struck a deflected effort at goal in the dying minutes, and Stephen Kingsley’s header looped over the crossbar before the final whistle.

Livingston (4-2-3-1): George; Devlin, Obileye, Sean Kelly, Montano (Longridge 83); Holt, Pittman; Omeonga (Stephen Kelly 81), Goncalves (Bahamboula 56), Penrice (Guthrie 56); Nouble.

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Hearts (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Sibbick, Neilson, Kingsley, Cochrane; Devlin (Shankland 56), Halliday (Henderson 83); McKay, Grant (Haring 56), Mackay-Steven (Forrest 56); Humphrys (Ginnelly 65).

Referee: Willie Collum.

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Attendance: 4,678.

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