Ricksen penalty keeps Rangers' charge on course

Heart of Midlothian 1 - Rangers 2
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The Independent Online

Fernando Ricksen snatched a controversial victory for Rangers last night with a penalty in stoppage time that saw Tynecastle boil over in a dramatic finale.

Fernando Ricksen snatched a controversial victory for Rangers last night with a penalty in stoppage time that made Tynecastle boil over in a dramatic finale.

The Dutchman kept his composure to beat Craig Gordon from the spot after Dado Prso and Saulius Mikoliunas had been sent off for their part in the row in the lead-up to the bizarre penalty award, given for a soft push on Sotirios Kyrgiakos. That silenced the ground which had reverberated to the sound of Hearts joy when their substitute Mark Burchill stabbed in an 87th-minute equaliser after Ronald Waterreus spilled Paul Hartley's free-kick.

The Hearts head coach John Robertson was left furious with the referee's decision. "I'm pig-sick to be perfectly truthful," Robertson said. "The incident at the end is very, very harsh. Lee Miller has leaned into him [Kyrgiakos] and there is nothing untoward."

Hearts underlined in the first half why they are pursuing a Uefa Cup place with a severe examination of Alex McLeish's side and Robbie Neilson almost scored after eight minutes with a dipping shot that landed on the roof of the net.

Nacho Novo's pace twice carried him into threatening positions, but he was denied by Hearts' Deveidas Cesnauskis and then the striker blazed another shot over the bar.

But it was the Rangers goal that led a charmed life. Cesnauskis shot over from just 10 yards after Waterreus fumbled Mikoliunas's shot and then the goalkeeper redeemed himself by touching the Lithuanian's next strike against the post.

Rangers took the lead four minutes into the second half. Prso won the contest with Christophe Berra for a long ball, then slipped a neat pass into the run of Novo, who advanced to clip a right-foot shot beyond Gordon.

Mikoliunas almost restored parity a few minutes later with a volley that Marvin Andrews deflected wide and then Hearts had a penalty claim turned down when Kyrgiakos seemed to foul Lee Miller from behind.

Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2) Gordon; Neilson, Webster, Berra, Wallace; Mikoliunas, Hartley, MacFarlane (Kizys, 77), McAllister (Burchill, 82); Cesnauskis (Hamill, 84), Miller. Substitutes not used: Moilananen (gk), McKenna, Wyness, Simmons.

Rangers (4-4-2): Waterreus; Ross, Andrews, Kyrgiakos, Ball; Ricksen, Ferguson, Buffel (Namouchi, 70), Vignal; Prso, Novo. Substitutes not used: McGregor (gk), Burke, Smith, Thompson, Malcolm, Rae.

Referee: H Dallas.

* Celtic beat Dundee 3-0 at Parkhead last night with two second-half goals from Bobo Balde and one from Stilian Petrov. The result keeps the gap between leaders Rangers and Celtic at six points, although Celtic have two games in hand.

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