Heart Of Midlothian 1 Rangers 1: Buffel breathes life into Rangers' faint Euro hopes

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The Independent Football

Thomas Buffel grabbed a share of the points for Rangers yesterday but Hearts maintained their six-point lead over the Glasgow side in the fight for second place in the Scottish Premier League and a Champions' League berth.

In a compelling game Edgaras Jankauskas opened the scoring after nine minutes for Hearts.

The midfielder Deividas Cesnauskis skinned the Rangers full-back Ian Murray and sent Paul Hartley scampering down the wing, although he looked suspiciously offside.

When the Scotland international's cutback came into the six-yard box the big Lithuanian had the simplest of tasks of slotting the ball past the Ronald Waterreus from close range.

With just two minutes to go before the interval, the visitors almost equalised when Chris Burke gave Andy Webster the slip and flashed a cross into the six-yard box but found no takers. Craig Gordon kept Hearts in front after the break when a Peter Lovenkrands free-kick from 25 yards struck the Jambos' defensive wall and broke to Buffel who turned and drove a shot which was goal-bound until the Scotland No 1 threw himself spectacularly to his right to palm the ball past the far post.

But the equaliser finally arrived after 65 minutes when Dado Prso set up Burke on the right. The little midfielder's cross sped all the way to the back post where Buffel was on hand to scramble the ball in despite the efforts of Gordon.

Hearts almost won it in the 85th minute, when a 35-yard snap-shot from full-back Robbie Neilson clipped the bar before going over.

The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, was upbeat over Rangers European prospects after the game, saying: "It's not a disaster. The gap can be bridged."

Goals: Jankauskas (9) 1-0; Buffel (65) 1-1.

Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2): Gordon; Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Fyssas; Cesnauskis, Hartley, Brellier, Skacel (Mikoliunas, 86); Bednar (Elliot, 76), Jankauskas. Substitutes not used: Banks (gk), Berra, Goncalves, Aguiar, Petras.

Rangers (4-4-2) : Waterreus; Hutton, Rodriguez, Kyrgiakos, Murray; Burke, Buffel, Ferguson, Hemdani; Prso (Novo, 75), Lovenkrands (Kris Boyd, 56). Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Andrews, Ricksen, Namouchi, Smith.

Referee: C Thomson.

Booked: Hearts Hartley, Skacel, Brellier; Rangers Burke, Prso.

Man of the match: Burke.

Attendance: 17,040.