Football: Wallace strikes twice to break sad Hearts

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The Independent Online
Rangers 3

Johansson 50, Wallace 61, 90

Hearts 0

Attendance: 49,749

RANGERS STRETCHED their unbeaten run to 15 matches and maintained their position at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable victory at Ibrox yesterday.

Two goals from Rod Wallace and another from Jonatan Johansson gave them revenge for an opening-day defeat by Hearts. But more importantly for the Rangers manager, Dick Advocaat, it puts his team in good heart for the difficult Uefa Cup match at Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday. "It was an excellent result and scoring three goals is always pleasing," he said. "But we haven't seen the best of the team yet."

Hearts had also defeated Rangers to lift the Scottish Cup last May but they displayed little inspiration yesterday afternoon. Had it not been for an outstanding display by the Hearts goalkeeper, Gilles Rousset, they would have been humiliated. "Rousset was outstanding and it was probably his best game for the club," said the Hearts manager, Jim Jefferies. "He saved us from a right beating."

Andrei Kanchelskis returned to the Rangers starting line-up after missing four games with a wrist injury. Barry Ferguson was also named by the Premier League leaders after missing Scotland's two Euro 2000 qualifiers with a hamstring problem, while Jefferies gave a debut to the former Ibrox striker Gary McSwegan, a recent signing from Dundee United.

Kanchelskis got straight into his stride and picked out Johansson after six minutes. The Finland striker rattled in a 20-yard shot that Rousset pushed away to his right. Then the Frenchman got a hand to a stinging effort from Kanchelskis and parried the rebound.

Rangers continued to pour forward and Rousset clawed away a close-range effort from Wallace after Johansson had played the ball in. The goalkeeper again came to his side's rescue with an astonishing save from a fierce Jorg Albertz volley from eight yards.

A lapse in concentration in the Rangers defence gave Hearts their first real chance in the 43rd minute when McSwegan rattled the post with a powerful strike and the Spanish midfielder Juanjo sent the rebound into the crowd.

Hearts' problems increased in the 50th minute, however, when Johansson opened the scoring. Rousset did well to beat away a drive from Ferguson but the ball broke to Giovanni van Bronckhorst and he swept it back into the area. Johansson, left unmarked, fired it home.

Wallace added a second in the 61st minute when Johansson turned provider and the former Leeds striker tapped the ball in to wrong-foot Rousset. Rangers were reduced to 10 men with two minutes left when Amoruso aimed a kick at David Weir, but that did not stop them adding a third on the stroke of full-time when Wallace beat Rousset with a rising drive.