“WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED” was the cry from the wonderful Rangers traveling support at Tynecastle this afternoon as ten-man Gers came from behind to defeat Hearts at Tynecastle to go top of the Scottish Premiership.
Yes, there’s still a long way to go and Celtic have a game in hand, but those fans exited into the wet Gorgie afternoon jubilant following a quite stunning performance from their side.
After a Gareth McAuley own-goal put the home side ahead, Connor Goldson and Alfredo Morelos netted to see Steven Gerrard’s men lead the table for the first time this season.
From the side which held Villarreal top a more-than creditable 0-0 draw with 10-men on Thursday, out of the side went Joe Worrall, Jon Flanagan, Ryan Jack and Glenn Middleton, with their places taken by McAuley, Andy Halliday, Ovie Ejaria and Eros Grezda respectively.
Tynecaste is famed for its outstanding atmosphere, but in the early minutes, all the noise was coming from the huge visiting support congregated behind Allan McGregor’s goal, confident of a good result given their team’s recent good form.
The fight shown against the Spaniards in the Europa League on Thursday was going to be needed against a Hearts team, who despite not winning any of their last five, had shown earlier in the season what they are capable of, while their manager Craig Levein was always likely to have them well motivated.
Indeed, it was the hosts who created the first opening of the game on eight minutes, with Steven Maclean glancing a header goalwards, only for Allan McGregor to be there once again with a terrific save low to his left.
12 minutes later, McGregor again had to be alert to turn a looping header from Arnaud Djoum over the bar, before Gers dealt with a pair of corners and broke dangerously on the second.
Daniel Candeias scarpered away down the right wing and crossed for the incoming Alfredo Morelos, but his shot under pressure from Michael Smith was deflected behind.
Then on 27 minutes, the home side took the lead. Time and again, Gers had the chance to clear the ball away, but couldn’t quite manage it and after the ball was worked wide for Marcus Godinho, his cross was deflected into his own net by Gareth McAuley.
The visitors responded with Morelos having another shot cleared behind, this time from an Eros Grezda cross with Demetri Mitchell being the man to deny the Colombian.
Grezda himself then tested Bobby Zlamal low to his left before Djoum did superbly to get something on an Ovie Ejaria header to get his effort over the bar for another corner.
And this time, Rangers made it count. The ball in from James Tavernier was superb, and at the back post to bundle the ball home was Connor Goldson for his third goal for the club.
The pressure Gerrard’s men had exerted on the home goal paid off, and from the restart, they ratcheted it up even further, playing at a wicked pace and creating a number of opportunities.
A Tavernier free-kick after Scott Arfield was hacked down by Christophe Berra on the edge of the area found the side netting, and then a terrific ball in from the captain from the right off another set-piece couldn’t be turned in by either Lassana Coulibaly or McAuley in the six-yard box.
It was only a matter of time before the Light Blues scored again, and on 41 minutes, the goal arrived from a wonderful Morelos finish.
Again, a free-kick out on the right was delivered beautifully by Tavernier and arriving onto his ball with a wonderful run was Morelos to flick the ball beyond the reach of Zlamal.
The noise from the jubilant away fans was deafening – and why not? At this stage, Gers were heading top of the table.
At the start of the second half, Morelos could put daylight between the teams when he was released at the end of a super Tavernier break, but as he cut inside from the left, he skewed his shot wide of the far post as he looked to find the bottom corner.
Eros Grezda then had a pair of chances, firstly shooting straight at Zlamal when he got himself loose at the back post from another outstanding Tavernier free-kick, and then after some pin-ball in the box, Godinho managed to deflect a drive from the Albanian over the bar.
Morelos then had another opportunity at full stretch on the end of an Ejaria cross after another superb break from Gers, but he couldn’t quite get enough on the ball to trouble Zlamal.
Then on 71 minutes, Rangers were reduced to 10 men. Another Gers break ended with Candeias testing Zlamal with a decent drive and while the goalkeeper held the rebound from Morelos on the line, sliding in was Scott Arfield.
Zlamal had the ball under his control and Arfield caught him late, with referee Bobby Madden adjudging that to be dangerous play.
Despite that, Gers were still looking dangerous, and Tavernier had Zlamal making another save, as did Ejaria, and while the latter’s effort rebounded for Morelos, the Colombian was offside.
Time and again, Hearts launched a long ball looking to cause Gers problems, and time and again, the Light Blues had the answers to hold on for a famous win and go top of the table.
HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN: Zlamal, Smith, Haring, Berra, Bozanic, Clare (Morrison 78), Djoum, Mitchell, Maclean, Cochrane (Lee, 70), Godinho (Dikamona, 63)
SUBS NOT USED: Doyle, Wighton, Hughes, Mulraney,.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, McAuley, Goldson, Halliday; Coulibaly (McCrorie, 81), Arfield, Ejaria; Candeias (Lafferty, 86), Morelos, Grezda (Jack, 63).
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Worrall, Flanagan, Middleton.
REFEREE: Bobby Madden
ATTENDANCE: 19,429 (inc 3777 away)