Hearts 1 Aberdeen 2: Clark puts dent in Hearts' ambitions

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The Independent Football

Chris Clark punctured Heart of Midlothian's Scottish Premier League title ambitions as his late, deflected shot snatched a win for Aberdeen at Tynecastle yesterday. A bad week for Graham Rix, who saw his selection duties seized by the club's maverick owner, Vladimir Romanov, in midweek, ended in the worst way possible as Hearts failed to put pressure on the leaders, Celtic, ahead of the Old Firm derby, and that 10-point gap could grow today.

A revolt among the Hearts players about Rix's maltreatment was headed off by Romanov agreeing to meet a deputation led by Steven Pressley, but the Lithuanian millionaire may feel the only talking point was his captain's own goal that let Aberdeen back in after Calum Elliot's early opener.

The victory was revenge for Aberdeen, who lost here in rancorous circumstances seven days earlier, and things did not look promising when Elliot struck after nine minutes. The teenager profited after Robbie Neilson's cross to the far side of the box picked out Rudi Skacel. Hearts' top scorer, who had come close with an angled shot minutes earlier, this time unselfishly threaded a pass to Elliot, who stabbed the ball past Jamie Langfield, just as he had done in the two sides' previous meeting.

However, Hearts did not cut loose as they had done in the cup tie, and add further goals. Indeed, had it not been for the excellence of Craig Gordon between the sticks, parity would have been restored by half-time. The Scotland goalkeeper touched one menacing cross from Chris Clark on to the bar before spoiling Barry Nicholson's free-kick by pushing it wide. Gordon eclipsed those stops by touching over another free-kick, this time curled in by Jamie Smith, and then beating away a further free-kick from Danny Griffin.

Aberdeen dominated the second half, and it was little surprise when that pressure paid off in 68 minutes. Kevin McNaughton and Ferne Snoyl exchanged passes for the Dutchman's shot to be beaten aside by Gordon, but Scott Severin pounced and drilled the ball across the face of goal for Pressley to knock it past his own goalkeeper.

After that, only Gordon's vigilance prevented Snoyl from scoring, but the Dutchman did have a role in the 87th-minute winner. He eluded Paul Hartley and fed Clark, whose fierce shot was deflected by Hartley to beat Gordon.