THE FRENCH tricolour, which flies proudly in one corner of Tynecastle, could not have been more appropriate. The only problem for Hearts, was that the man raising the standard was not one of their Gallic trio, but Stephane Guivarc'h.
The Rangers striker may have endured a fruitless time at Newcastle, but his double - which takes his total to five since coming to Scotland eight weeks ago - could hardly be more valuable. Guivarc'h buried a 63rd-minute shot that ultimately proved the margin between the teams with the kind of vigour and confidence that was sadly lacking in his woeful World Cup final display.
It secured a hard-fought success at the very ground where Celtic lost just 13 days ago, and left his countryman, Hearts' goalkeeper Gilles Rousset, cursing in frustration.
Rousset was beaten by a deflection for the first goal from Guivarc'h in the 15th minute, a mishit shot. Ultimately, the game turned on that one moment because the goal gave Rangers a lifeline when they looked to be drowning. Hearts had simply swamped them and deserved greater reward than just Gary Locke's splendid header from Thomas Flogel's excellent cutback after just two minutes. Only goalkeeper Antti Niemi, who made three breathtaking saves, kept Rangers afloat.
But if Rangers were fortunate then, they were ferocious after the interval. Such was the pressure of Dick Advocaat's team that the only surprise was that it took until the 58th minute for Rod Wallace to provide a lead, with a crisp left-foot shot.
Guivarc'h extended the advantage further five minutes later, before, in the 69th minute, Jim Hamilton finished off another fine piece of wing work by Flogel with a rising volley past Niemi.
Hearts found renewed hope. But Rangers simply gave them a slap in the face by introducing Neil McCann, whom they had bought from Hearts for pounds 1.9m five days ago, but simply kept in reserve until the 80th minute.
Later, Hearts' manager Jim Jefferies muttered about the capricious game: "We could have been 3-0 up after 15 minutes. But we lost it after half- time when my players were arguing with each other, yet we almost made it 3-3. I can't fault my players' effort, but I can fault their discipline - it cost us the game."
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