Little double stops Hearts taking second big scalp
Heart of Midlothian 0 Rangers 3
Hearts were unable to repeat the heroics of last weekend's Cup semi-final victory against Celtic and take back-to-back Old Firm scalps, as Rangers ran out easy winners in Edinburgh yesterday. A Sone Aluko goal and an Andy Little double sealed the win for Rangers, while a penalty miss from Hampden hero Craig Beattie added to Hearts' despair.
Rangers could have had a penalty in the first five minutes, when Darren Barr appeared to handle a Maurice Edu header in the box. The referee, Calum Murray, did not point to the spot. Rangers continued to push forward and Little squared into the path of the on-rushing Lee McCulloch in front of goal, but he could not connect cleanly and the goalkeeper, Jamie MacDonald, was able to gather. Kyle Bartley then saw his volley cannon off the former Rangers defender Andy Webster on the line, before McCulloch's shot flashed across goal and wide.
Rangers took the lead after 28 minutes when they were given a free-kick just outside the box for a foul by Webster, which was hotly disputed by the Hearts player. Aluko stepped up for the set-piece and sent a superb curling effort past MacDonald.
Rangers could have doubled their lead when Steven Whittaker supplied a cut-back for McCulloch; with only the goalkeeper to beat, he looked on in disbelief as MacDonald managed to tip the shot wide. The honours went to Little instead when he collected a Lee Wallace cross at the near post and scooped a left-footed effort past MacDonald and into the net.
Beattie was not too far away for Hearts shortly after the re-start, with a shot that fell just wide of Allan McGregor's left-hand post. The former Celtic striker had another chance when he picked up Ian Black's pass, only to blast well over the crossbar from 15 yards, failing to trouble the Rangers goalkeeper once again.
Hearts should have pulled a goal back when the referee pointed to the penalty spot for an Aluko trip on the substitute David Templeton, just inside the area after 75 minutes. But Beattie, who had been the hero with the winner from the penalty spot against Celtic, saw his effort crash off the crossbar.
There was no way back for Hearts after Wallace found Little in plenty of space in front of goal and all that was required from the Northern Irishman was to slot into an empty net and put the gloss on the win with two minutes to go.
The Rangers manager, Ally McCoist, would like to offer a new contract to Little. "Andy Little has had a heck of a tough time and has come back from serious career-threatening injuries," said McCoist. "He will always make something happen. He's chipped in with more than his fair share of goals already this season."
Hearts (4-4-2): McDonald; Grainger, Barr (Glen, 68), Webster, McGowan; Zaliukas, Black, Driver (Templeton, 68), Skacel; Beattie, Elliott (Santana, h-t).
Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Gojan (Perry, 76), Wallace, Whittaker, Bocanegra; Bartley, McCulloch, Edu, Aluko (Kerkar,76); McCabe, Little.
Referee Calum Murray.
Man of the match Aluko (Rangers).
Match rating 6/10.
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