Mauricio Pinilla, Jamie Mole and Andy Driver captured moments never to be forgotten against Inverness as the Jambos bounced back immedaitely having exited their first foray into the qualifiers of the Champions League at the hands of AEK Athens.
By opening the scoring, Chilean striker Pinilla instantly commanded the adulation of the home support. Mole’s headed second for Hearts allied to an assured display gave worth to the youngster’s chances of establishing a first-team slot, while Driver signalled his intent with the decisive third just four minutes after replacing Neil McCann.
An early Paul Hartley free-kick complemented Pinilla’s industrious opening. For a player whose attitude had been questioned at previous clubs, the South American showed himself to be completely in tune with the desires of both Valdas Ivanauskas and the occasionally-fickle home support throughout the afternoon.
Hearts were beginning to find their rhythm as Mark Brown in the Caley goal found himself with work to do as Mole and Pinilla began to work well up front together.
Winger McCann, criticised in certain quarters for his lack of creativity leading up to this match, retorted by swinging in two perfect crosses from the left flank. The first was glanced goalwards by Mole and expertly saved by Brown low at his left post. The second – almost identical – found the right foot of former Inter Milan frontman Pinilla for a precise finish into the corner from seven yards.
The goal brought momentary relief for a team that hadn’t scored for five hours and 18 minutes of football. However, Barry Wilson’s long-range drive served as a timely reminder that Charlie Christie and his Highlanders had their own means of jolting supposedly superior opponents. That threat became reality on the half-hour, Wilson’s right-sided cross again eluding Steven Pressley and Christos Karipidis for Graham Bayne to tower above the diminutive Tiago Costa and nod the ball home.
The home support began to grow slightly irritable as Inverness began to exploit the communication barrier down the right wing between Costa and Saulius Mikoliunas, with Roy McBain and Richard Hastings exposing Hearts on several occasions. Mole’s first goal for Hearts served as the perfect calming measure, the teenager towering to nod Hartley’s free-kick beyond Brown.
The crowd began to grow uneasy in the second half as Hearts tried to press for a third goal without success. However, this was soon eased with the introduction of Driver. The English winger lashed the ball into the roof of the net on 80 minutes after Mikoliunas’ cross was only partially cleared by Darren Dods.
Just to round off a satisfying afternoon for the home side, Mole perfectly cushioned a Juho Makela flick into the path of advancing Portugese midfielder Bruno Aguiar to tuck home the fourth minutes from time.
Hearts: Gordon, Costa, Wallace, Pressley, Hartley, Karipidis, Mikoliunas, Zaliukas, Pinilla, Mole, McCann.