Story of Rangers 1 Hearts 1: Robbie Neilson red carded as Jambos make their intentions clear at Ibrox

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was sent off after taking exception to what he deemed an unacceptable response from officials to Rangers’ Juninho Bacuna grabbing Stephen Kingsley by the throat.

Saturday, 16th October 2021, 7:33 pm

Late in proceedings and with a 1-0 lead courtesy of John Lundstram’s first-half strike, the home side also thought they had the game by the scruff of the neck.

But with the visiting manager left to skulk in the tunnel and listen for the final whistle, his men demonstrated their fighting capabilities and reminded Rangers that they are not going to have it all their own way at the top of the table.

Displaying the character and the serious intent harboured by the Gorgie club, Craig Halkett grabbed a 90th-minute equaliser, rising to meet a Gary Mackay-Steven corner that evaded everyone else, including the Rangers goalkeeper, Allan McGregor.

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Craig Halkett's last-gasp goal gave Hearts a share of the points during a competitive clash with Rangers at Ibrox. Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group

That extended the team’s unbeaten start to the Premiership campaign to nine games.

It also keeps them just one point behind the defending champions and current league leaders, who had succeeded in putting some daylight between themselves and Hibs last time out and had hoped to make it a capital double.

It was a huge statement from the Tynecastle side, but it was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts as striker Alfredo Morelos was one of several to squander openings and others were denied by last ditch blocks from a doggedly-diligent Hearts side and some terrific saves from Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

A cracking double save from Leon Balogun in the opening 45 minutes was as good as it gets but such is his form, those heroics are becoming almost expected.

The same could be said for the club as a whole, who appear to have an indefatigable spirit and the ability to back that up.

It was a tough start to the game, as Rangers dominated the early play, looking to remind the latest upstart to turn up at Ibrox with winning ambitions of their status as reigning champions and current leaders.

It took Hearts til midway through the half to gain a foothold, having had to repel wave after wave of Rangers advances until then.

Looking like they were possessed of more energy and urgency at that point Rangers got at them and while they were creating more clear-cut chances, Hearts were struggling to get their main playmakers into the match and when they did, there was a propensity to pick the wrong option when it came to the final ball, or the breakthrough pass.

It has been almost a decade since the Edinburgh visitors have tasted victory in top tier action in Govan, but that knowledge did not dilute their ambition. The guests tested Hearts’ mettle when, despite the underdogs playing their way back into the contest, they slammed home a raker of an opening goal in the 40th minute.

On the balance of play it was merited but having failed to kill Hearts off, no-one inside Ibrox should be surprised that they made them pay.

Barrie McKay and Devlin each tested McGregor and at the other end Gordon and then Souttar denied Kemar Roofe, while Morelos maintained his profligacy.

But, with time running out Halkett was far more decisive, preventing Rangers from strangling their ambitions and keeping things interesting at the top of the Premiership.

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