Here are three Hearts-related observations from their 2-1 defeat against Rangers at Tynecastle.
Attacking spark still missing
In the hypothetical instance that Uche Ikpeazua and/or Steven Naismith had been playing, Hearts would have had every chance of capitalising on their strong start and picking up a victory. The hosts got themselves into several good positions early on, but lacked the pace, power and killer instinct to make it count. Although they ended their goal drought, it was notable that it came via an own goal. Steven MacLean is working diligently as the main central striker but the 36-year-old is never going to single-handedly give a defence of Rangers’ quality the problems Ikpeazu or Naismith can. Beyond the veteran, Sean Clare, who showed glimpses of his quality, was unable to cause the visitors enough problems. Callumn Morrison brought some much-needed thrust when he came on later in the game but the teenager lacked the final ball to make it count. The effort is there, but the x-factor is missing.
Berra looked like he’d never been away
After four months out, Christophe Berra was instantly back at his brilliant best. The Hearts captain set the tone for a strong display by winning four headers in the opening minutes and continued to win almost every duel he entered. In typical Hearts fashion, his return to the side has coincided with the loss to injury of another key defender in Jimmy Dunne, but Berra’s presence on the pitch is a timely boost at the start of a heavy December schedule. The fact he came through such a demanding match, against a striker of Alfredo Morelos’s quality, in such an impressive manner will have done wonders for his mindset at the end of the first long-term injury lay-off of his career.
Zlamal back at his best
The goalkeeper had a flawless start to his Hearts career but then faced a test of character after his costly mistake against Celtic in the Betfred Cup semi-final five weeks ago. Although he hasn’t been directly at fault for any goals since then, his general commanding aura was in danger of being punctured as Hearts shipped goals and points. They may have lost again here but the goalkeeper commanded his penalty area and made enough quality saves to reassure supporters that his confidence has not been diminished by Hearts’ recent dip.