LATE winners always seem to arrive laced with something a little special, often being savoured weeks and sometimes months after they are executed.
That was certainly the case with Roman Bednar’s winner three minutes before time in this five-goal thriller.
The imposing Czech certainly knew how to make an entrance. The previous week he had been issued a red card for a second bookable offence, which was feigning contact in a tackle in an attempt to win a penalty; the dismissal coming just ten minutes after Bednar’s introduction as a substitute against Partick Thistle.
In this match, Bednar took over from Edgaras Jankauskas on 75 minutes clearly intent on making a positive contribution and set about upsetting the Livingston defenders with his physical presence and hazardous turn of pace.
Twelve minutes later, he was accepting the adulation of the Hearts fans having slotted home the side’s decisive third goal.
The talismanic Czech will unquestionably be bestowed with much credit for his accurate finish, but taking a moment to reflect on the player who assisted him with a loping pass during the initial stages of the move is fully justified.
Bruno Aguiar, in only his third appearance since signing from Benfica in January, was the epitome of the tenacious and creative modern midfield player against Livingston. He and Martin Petras accepted the central roles normally occupied by the suspended Julien Brellier and Paul Hartley, and with Petras evidently still requiring time to adjust to Scottish football’s ferocity, it was Aguiar who exerted full control. He scored the opener, via a deflection off Richard Brittain’s ankle, and before firing the ball through for Bednar to surge past Jason Dair in the closing minutes, Aguiar gave a display of crafty passing and passionate tackling.
Livingston, under the guidance of John Robertson, seemed a side far more motivated for their cause, which of course was SPL survival. Their first equaliser was down to good fortune through hesitant Hearts defending when Brittain’s free-kick from the left was allowed to float untouched into the corner of Craig Gordon’s goal.
When Jankauskas flicked a Deividas Cesnauskis byline cross past Roddy McKenzie on 72 minutes, it seemed the home side were paying for their profligacy, but further rudderless defensive work by Hearts allowed Dave Mackay to spectacularly level for a second time, the absence of Steven Pressley’s organisational skills being made clear as the ball remained within shooting distance without a convincing clearance.
The late introductions of Chris Hackett, who was making his Hearts debut, and Mirsad Beslija, had a galvanising effect on Hearts, and Bednar was soon profiting from the spirited upsurge as he took Aguiar’s pass, touched the ball past Dair and slotted it past McKenzie.