Maroon Memories: Simmons strikes to hold Rangers
Hearts 2, Rangers 2. SPL. Saturday, September 8, 2001
Hearts took the lead through Kevin McKenna early in the game and, although goals from Russell Latapy and Tore Andre Flo looked to have put Rangers on course for victory, Stephen Simmons grabbed an equaliser with 10 minutes to go.
What started out as a scrappy game turned into an exciting encounter and it was the Ibrox side who enjoyed the first chance of the game after three minutes.
Manager Dick Advocaat had opted to start with Flo and Ronald de Boer up front and they combined well to set up Latapy. But the former Hibs player squandered the opportunity to open the scoring, lifting the ball yards over the crossbar.
Four minutes later Rangers found themselves trailing. Arthur Numan tried to nod the ball back to Tony Vidmar but the ball broke for Kevin McKenna who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Stefan Klos.
De Boer could have levelled after 10 minutes when he met Numan’s long ball but he was denied by former Rangers keeper Antti Niemi who produced a great block.
Niemi was left helpless just four minutes later. Numan burst down the left flank before sending a cross into the box that was met by Latapy. This time he made no mistake, his shot going in off the inside of the post.
With 16 minutes on the clock Rangers were back in the game and could have doubled their advantage when Flo was on target but Niemi blocked and Andy Webster was alert enough to clear the rebound.
Rangers were handed a corner kick after 23 minutes and Latapy picked out Vidmar at the far post but the Aussie defender somehow managed to nod wide of the upright.
As the game approached the half-hour mark, it was Hearts’ turn to pile on the pressure.
Firstly Webster’s shot, from a Stevie Fulton flag kick, was blocked by Klos and the Rangers keeper was called into action again seconds later to deny Juanjo’s superb shot.
After the re-start Rangers seized the initiative and Andrei Kanchelskis tried to feed the ball through to Flo in front of goal but the danger was cleared by Steven Pressley.
After 49 minutes the towering Norwegian was threatening again but this time his long-range effort was just turned past the post by the Hearts goalkeeper.
But a great move between Kanchelskis and Latapy allowed the former Hibs man to release Flo on the right and this time the striker was rewarded for his efforts when he slipped the ball effortlessly past Niemi.
Still Rangers continued to pile on the pressure and Numan tried to pick out Flo at the back post for his second goal of the day on the hour mark but Webster intercepted to nod clear.
With just 15 minutes to go, Rangers had a penalty claimed turned down. Flo turned Pressley in the box and appeared to be brought down by the Hearts player but referee Hugh Dallas was unimpressed and waved play on.
Five minutes later Hearts were back on level terms when an opportunist strike from Stephen Simmons smacked off the upright and past Klos.
Advocaat replaced Latapy with Billy Dodds and he could have grabbed the winner with just four minutes to go. Vidmar played the ball to Peter Lovenkrands who flicked the ball onto Dodds but the striker just failed to connect at the back post.
Seconds later Dodds missed another great chance when he nodded just over the crossbar from a Numan cross.
Hearts: Niemi, McKenna, Pressley, Webster, Mahe, Flogel, Severin (Adam 80), Fulton, Juanjo, Kirk (McSwegan 70), Simmons. Subs Not Used: McKenzie, Boyack, McCann.
Rangers: Klos, Ricksen, Ross, Vidmar, Numan, Kanchelskis, Konterman, Latapy (Dodds 84), Hughes, de Boer (Lovenkrands 74), Flo. Subs Not Used: Christiansen, Caniggia, Penttila.
Ref: H Dallas (Scotland).