Ragged Rangers fail to stop Hearts rally

Rangers 2 Hearts 2
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The Independent Online

Rangers were booed loudly off the pitch by their own fans after throwing away a two-goal lead to a Hearts side who were witless and inept for an hour before they stormed back to earn the draw and punch a sizeable hole in the hosts' title hopes.

Kyle Lafferty scored the opener before being carried off on a stretcher with an ankle injury. Barry Ferguson doubled the lead on the cusp of half time.

Hearts got on the score sheet 26 minutes from time through Christos Karipidis and earned a point to take back to Edinburgh because of Ruben Palazuelos's 67th minute volley, and it was very nearly three points but Calum Elliot's curling goal-bound shot in stoppage time was saved.

Instead of Rangers going top on goal difference, which is where they would be this morning if that had won, they remain in second, two points behind Celtic, who will stretch that lead to five points if they win at Dundee United today.

Walter Smith's men were patched up at the back but their capitulation cannot be attributed to the absences of first-choice centre-halves David Weir (suspended) and Madjid Bougherra (calf problem), and full-back Kirk Broadfoot (foot injury). Being without that trio did not stop Rangers dominating 60 minutes of a dire game before going off the boil in midfield and attack, and Hearts passed badly and threatened nothing before Elliot came on as a substitute.

Lafferty's goal came from DaMarcus Beasley's pass after David Obua had gifted one of many balls to the opposition. Lafferty was taken off after 35 minutes but on the cusp of half-time Ferguson slammed home from 20 yards after Pedro Mendes' corner failed to get past the first man.

Nacho Novo, who came on on for Lafferty, hit the post just after the hour. Elliot' shot at the other end two minutes was saved for a corner. In a goalmouth scramble, Beasley, who was standing on the line, was unable to stop Karipidis's header.

Elliot's cushion header after Obua's pass fell to Palazuelos for the equaliser, converted with a well-struck volley, albeit with plenty of time and space for execution.

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