IT WAS the same scoreline and the same goalscorers as their last gasp win over Partick Thistle but Rangers win over the Jambos was a little less hearts in mouths than a week previous.
Joe Garner and Barrie McKay netted in each half and on either side of a Esmael Goncalves equaliser – which came against the run of play.
Garner nodded home on six minutes to make it two in two and 20 minutes later the visitors found themselves down to ten men when Prince Buaben hauled back Josh Windass as the last man.
Rangers couldn’t capitalise on the man advantage though and conceded cheaply six minutes after the break. Hearts were back in it for less than a minute though before McKay lashed home on 52 minutes.
Garner’s opener came from a wonderful curling Kenny Miller cross which fed the striker as he played the offside trap superbly. Miller’s ball swerved its way around the Hearts back four and the former Preston man was lurking in the middle to plant a header beyond Viktor Noring.
It looked as if the 29-year-old could have had a reoccurrence of the dislocated shoulder he suffered against Celtic in December when he failed to retrieve himself off the turf to celebrate. But after some tests on the side lines the goalscorer returned to the field to continue.
Hearts came alive in the 12th minutes when Don Cowie lashed a shot at Wes Foderingham from the right of the box. The Jambos captain was fed by an insightful ball from Bjorn Johnsen and needed no invitation to try and sneak the ball inside Rangers’ near post. Foderingham had it covered though. The visitors tried again when Malaury Martin put a central free-kick over moments later.
On 17 minutes it was just the palm of Noring which denied Garner a second. Windass had originally attempted to find the striker but his pass cannoned off a Hearts defender and into the path of McKay. The winger thought quickly and rather than going alone he squared to Garner, who fired low from seven yards out only to find the debutant keeper in good form.
Hearts had a cry for a penalty waved away four minutes later as Hill tackled Goncalves from behind, felling the forward but appearing to get a toe on the ball at the same time. Bobby Madden wasn’t listening to the Edinburgh side’s protests though and cried play on.
Then on 26 minutes Hearts found themselves down to 10 men with a huge chunk of the game still to play. Prince Buaben tugged back Windass as he looked to have broken away to go one on one with Noring through the middle. Madden had no other option but to show the defender the red card. Rangers tried an inventive free-kick from the resulting set-piece with McKay laying the ball off to James Tavernier but the full-back shot into the side netting.
Just before the break both sides had chances from corners. First Liam Smith nodded a ball from the right at Foderingham and then David Bates forced a good save out of Noring at the other end. The centre-back tried to turn a McKay corner home at the near post and then had another chance with his feet but that was blocked.
Noring was having a busy start to his Hearts career and with the help of the woodwork he denied Hill on 43 minutes, again from a corner. The veteran defender sent a bullet header goalwards after arriving at the near post to latch onto McKay’s delivery. His nod bounced off the base of the upright and into the body of the keeper who gathered quickly.
The Gers tried to start the second-half with the same pressure they had applied in the first and nearly did so when McKay whipped a low cross into Windass at the near post. The 23-year-old couldn’t turn the ball inside though.
Then within six minutes of the restart and from nothing Ian Cathro’s side found themselves back in it. Johnsen outwitted Holt to brush him aside and find himself in acres of spaces down the left. He took his time to formulate a plan and squared sweetly to Goncalves. All the Portuguese forward had to do was stroke the ball beyond Foderingham to draw his side level.
Hearts sat equal for just one minute before Barrie McKay put his laces through a poor goalkeeping decision from Noring. The stopper failed to catch a Tavernier cross and punched the ball high into the air to see it fall to the 22-year-old just inside the box. Full of confidence after his goal against Partick Thistle he needed no invitation to rifle a shot into the back of the net.
Despite being a man down Hearts had their tails up after the Light Blues had gone ahead again. Sam Nicholson should have done better with a header at the far post and then Johnson produced a tame effort with his left when he could have punished Caixinha’s side.
Tavernier unnecessarily put his goalkeeper under pressure with a back pass on 64 minutes and Djoum intercepted it. Foderingham had to come quickly off his line to deal with the onrushing striker and smother the ball. Rangers had done little since their second goal to capitalise.
Some lovely quick work from the Gers frontline nearly saw Toral get his team a third. Garner won the ball in the air out on the right to nod down into the path of McKay. He picked out Miller on the edge of the box and he tapped it short into the Spaniard’s path. The Arsenal loanee watched as his curling low shot curved just inches round the post.
Ten minutes from time it was full-back to full-back as Tavernier narrowly missed burying a Lee Hodson cross into the roof of the net. The Northern Irishman pinged a diagonal ball to the Gers right-back who was hanging just on side at the far post but he headed over.
Martyn Waghorn, on from the bench, missed a guilt edged chance in injury time as he went through one-on-one with Noring. The keeper made himself big though and saved from the 27-year-old as he tried to side foot past him.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Hill, Bates, Hodson, Holt (Barjonas 66’), Toral (Waghorn 73’), Windass (Dodoo 52’), McKay, Miller, Garner
Subs not used: Alnwick, Beerman, A. Wilson, Halliday
Goals: Garner 6’, McKay 52’
Yellows: Hill 16’
HEARTS: Noring, Hughes, Buaben, Djoum, Nicholson (Choulay 84’), Cowie, Nowak, Johnsen (Currie 73’), Smith, Gonclaves, Martin (Tziolis 45’)
Subs not used: Hamilton, Kitchen, Alvonitis, Brandon
Goals: Goncalves 51’
Yellows: Smith 79’
Reds: Buaben 26’