Hearts 2, Livingston 1. SPL. Saturday, December 3, 2005
Hearts went back top of the Bank of Scotland Premier League with a hard fought win over luckless Livingston at Tynecastle.
A first-half double by midfielder Rudi Skacel, his 12th and 13th of the season, gave the Edinburgh side a comfortable lead at the break. Livi playmaker Allan Walker pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute and the visitors pushed hard for the equaliser but in the end the Jambos held on, albeit unconvincingly, to leapfrog Celtic by two points for 24 hours at least.
It was a strange performance from the home side who threatened to blow Livingston away in the first half but who were more than happy to hear the final whistle blow.
Hearts had started slowly in their first two games under new head coach Graham Rix, at Aberdeen and Motherwell, but they were quick out of the traps in front of their own supporters.
There was no surprise when the home side took the lead in the eighth minute and even less surprise that the scorer was Skacel. The Czech midfielder picked the ball up in midfield, sped towards goal shrugging off three defenders and, after skipping past Gabor Vincze, his drive from 20 yards gave keeper Ludovic Roy no chance as it exploded into the net.
In the 15th minute, after a brief promise of a fight back by the Lions, Hearts found themselves two ahead – and again Skacel was the scorer.
The impressive Roman Bednar chested the ball down to Calum Elliot at the left-hand side of the penalty area and when the youngster’s cross came into the middle the Czech star controlled the ball with one touch and slammed a left-footed drive from 16 yards past Roy.
The Livi keeper then made a good double save from midfielder Saulius Mikoliunas and then Bednar.
As the Jambos relaxed a little Lions midfielder Jason Dair came close on two occasions, and in the 27th minute Hearts keeper Craig Gordon saved easily from a Richard Brittain free-kick from distance. Livi striker James McPake had a great chance from a Dair corner in the 43rd minute but the youngster missed his header altogether from only eight yards out.
A minute later Paul Dalglish fired a 25-yard drive just over Gordon’s crossbar.
McPake seemed to have a go at defender Andy Webster right on the half-time whistle and a melee ensued as the teams left the field.
It emerged that McPake and Dalglish had both been booked at the interval by referee Alan Freeland for their part in the altercation.
Normal service resumed as Hearts stormed into attack at the beginning of the second half. Brilliant play on the right by Mikoliunas gave Bednar a golden opportunity from 16 yards out but the Czech striker’s effort went wide, this time past the right hand post.
But in the 63rd minute the visitors were back in the game. When the ball broke from a Julien Brellier interception to midfielder Allan Walker 20 yards from goal the Livi midfielder wasted no time in drilling a shot past Gordon and into the corner of the net.
Hearts, stung by the audacity of the Lions goal, stormed up the park immediately and, after Bednar was set up by Skacel, he fired his angled shot from 16 yards off the near post.
Then, in a remarkable incident, Vincze sent a throw-in straight into the Hearts net but the ‘goal’ was disallowed.
Hearts Gordon, Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Fyssas, Mikoliunas, Hartley, Brellier (Simmons 66), Skacel, Elliot (Cesnauskis 90), Bednar (Pospisil 77). Subs Not Used: MacDonald, McAllister, Berra, Wallace.
Livingston Roy, Mackay, Pinxten, Strong, Tierney, Brittain, Walker (Scott 84), Vincze, Dair, Dalglish (Snodgrass 82), McPake. Subs Not Used: McKenzie, Dorado, Boyd, Adam, Tesevic.
Ref: A Freeland (Scotland).