Robbie Neilson explains why Hearts got overrun against Rangers and admits they must improve

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Robbie Neilson admitted Hearts have much to improve on to get closer to Rangers after the Ibrox side cruised to a comfortable victory in Edinburgh.

The visitors recorded a 3-0 victory with two goals from Alfredo Morelos and one from Malik Tillman. They could have scored more goals but for a fine performance by Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark at Tynecastle Park. He pulled off several impressive saves, and three times an offside flag denied the Ibrox side goals during the evening.

Neilson conceded that the game showed how big the gap is between his team sitting third in the Premiership and Rangers in second spot. “We know that. We need to try and get there and that is what we are trying to do,” said the Hearts manager. “Look, we have had a brilliant run, ten games undefeated and sitting third in the league, but we want to get closer to Rangers. There will be a lot of stuff we can improve on that’s for sure when we look at the video and we need to try and implement that and get closer.

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“There are a lot of disappointments. I just think we didn’t get anywhere near the level we’ve been getting to. There are two sides to that. I thought Rangers played very well, pressed well, they were aggressive. When the opportunity came to play, we never connected with our passes. Our passes were going back the way, making mistakes we probably haven’t made previously. So it was a disappointing evening.”

An unfamiliar central midfield trio of Garang Kuol, Robert Snodgrass and Barrie McKay did not work for Hearts in a 3-5-2 system. Neilson changed formation midway through the first half with the scoreline at 1-0.

“We kept the same formation, we went a bit more attack-minded in the middle,” he said. “The attacking was probably the poorest part of it. We didn’t connect our passes or get forward. We had a couple of wee chances we didn’t take.

“The defensive aspect we had to change because we were getting overrun in the middle. So we changed to a four and it helped us get a bit of stability. Whatever shape it was tactically, it’s down to making those decisions on when to go and press and obviously finding a team-mate when we pass it.”

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Rangers manager Michael Beale admitted he was taken aback when Hearts announced their team pre-match. “When I looked at the team I thought, wow, he's having a right go at us,” said Beale. “I was a little bit concerned that maybe some of their power and running might cause us some issues in the game. I warned the team.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson and Rangers manager Michael Beale at Tynecastle.Hearts manager Robbie Neilson and Rangers manager Michael Beale at Tynecastle.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson and Rangers manager Michael Beale at Tynecastle.

“I was really pleased with the performance because I know we were up against an opponent riding high on form and coming into the game with lots of confidence. We knew we had to be at our very best.

“Out of possession we were excellent in terms of our pressing and regains. It caused a lot of problems for Hearts. They were quite expansive in the way they tried to play, so we had to be good defensively and we won a lot of the duels.”