European hangovers are so well known that Alex McLeish had warned his Rangers side of a need to match their impressive Champions' League display against VfB Stuttgart, but in the end it was Hearts who were left nursing a sore head.
Craig Levein's team were simply mugged at Tynecastle yesterday as the champions secured their sixth successive victory in this Scottish Premier League campaign and dented Hearts' morale ahead of their Uefa Cup tie with Zeljeznicar Sarajevo on Wednesday.
Peter Lovenkrands found the net twice in the second half as Rangers stepped up a gear in ominous fashion. Shota Arveladze also struck twice and said later, "We wanted to show that we could cope with the SPL as well as the Champions' League".
The scoreline could scarcely have been predicted in a first half that was taut and evenly contested. Indeed, Hearts ought to have been awarded a penalty after just two minutes when Mark de Vries was wrestled to the turf by Zurab Khizanishvili. Even McLeish admitted later that he expected to see the referee, Stuart Dougal, point to the spot.
The only time either goalkeeper was brought out of hybernation was when Tepi Moilanen threw himself to his left to keep out a volley from Michael Mols, but he could do nothing about the effort which finally beat him in stoppage time. Mols played a delightful ball into the path of Emerson, who found Arveladze on the edge of the box and the Georgian fired a fierce right-foot shot past the goalkeeper.
Six minutes after the interval, Lovenkrands rose to meet a fine cross from Maurice Ross and power a header beyond Moilanen. And when Phil Stamp failed to win another penalty appeal for Hearts, their fate was sealed.
Arveladze struck again, reacting quickest after Moilanen pushed Emerson's shot onto the post, and the keeper was beaten from close range at the death when Lovenkrands pounced after Egil Ostenstad had thumped the ball at the keeper and it broke free.
Goals: Arveladze (45) 0-1; Lovenkrands (51) 0-2, Arveladze (73) 0-3; Lovenkrands (89) 0-4.
Hearts (4-4-2): Moilanen; Maybury, Pressley, Webster, Kisnorbo; Stamp, MacFarlane, Severin, Hammill (Kirk, 53); Wyness (Valois, 62), De Vries (McKenna, 86). Substitutes not used: Gordon (gk), Boyack.
Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Ross, Berg, Khizanishvili, Ball; Capucho, Arteta, Emerson, Lovenkrands; Mols (Ostenstad, 75), Arveladze.
Substitutes not used: McGregor, Malcolm, Vanoli, Hughes.
Referee: S Dougal.
Bookings: Hearts: Maybury, Pressley, Stamp, MacFarlane, Wyness, Kisnorbo. Rangers: Klos.
Man of the match: Emerson.
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