The Jambos’ 6-2 rout of Dundee – their biggest rivals this term – in the league’s curtain-raiser was the perfect way to start the campaign. Stephen Kingsley scored a double, while Michael Smith, Josh Ginnelly, Liam Boyce and Andy Halliday also found the net in a ripsnorting encounter that had quality, passion, aggression, desire and slipshod defending.
Just like 2014/15
Hearts’ last dalliance with the Championship, with current boss Robbie Neilson in charge, started with a bang too, defeating title rivals Rangers 2-1 at Ibrox in 2014. While the 2020/21 version of the league is not as star-studded, Hearts replicated the feat against a dangerous foe.
Quality and intensity
Hearts came out of the blocks so fast. They hurled into tackles and attacked at will. So much of the threat came from out wide. Their pace, power and movement overpowered James McPake’s men.
Neilson started preparations for this season early and it paid off here. They were sharper than Dundee at both ends of the pitch. As they snapped into tackles, Neilson roared from the touchline like a lion. He was up for this.
Dundee came here with good write-ups, considering their transfer business. Charlie Adam, in midfield, is their star attraction, and scored a quite glorious solo goal.
However, their attacking quality was undone by rotten defending. Their back-three was too flimsy, easily pulled apart by Hearts. The concession of four first-half goals meant Jordon Forster was hooked at the interval and the switch to a back-four, plus the removal of an ineffective Osman Sow, made a difference.
Story of the match
This barnstorming game ignited in just the fourth minute, when Smith cut inside from the right and slid the ball past Jack Hamilton.
Dundee’s defence, already looking dicey, failed to close down Ginnelly on 24 minutes and his low finish from just outside the box skidded home.
The visitors looked on the brink of collapse, but Adam – by far their best player – slalomed through Hearts’ midfield and his angled drive two minutes later left Craig Gordon rooted.
Hearts restored their two-goal lead on 34 minutes when Jordan Marshall blocked Boyce’s effort with his hand. The Northern Irishman made no mistake from the spot.
That wasn’t the end of the first-half scoring. Right on stoppage time, Kingsley curled in a screamer of a free-kick.
Dundee rallied in the second half. Gordon made a sensational stop from Mullen, but the same player managed to clip the ball over him on 68 minutes to give the visitors some hope.
Neilson stiffened up his team with Peter Haring and Halliday to quell any chance of come-back, and it worked.
Kingsley scored again on 84 minutes, capping off a neat move with a lovely strike, before a punch-drunk Dundee took another blow on 90 minutes when Halliday fizzed a shot in at the death.
A marker has been set. Hearts mean business.
Hearts: Gordon; Smith, Halkett, Popescu, Kingsley; Lee, Irving (Haring 70); Ginnelly (Halliday 73), Walker, Roberts; Boyce (Wighton 75). Unused subs: Stewart, White, Frear, Naismith.
Dundee: Hamilton; McGhee, Forster (Afolabi 46), Ashcroft; Kerr, Dorrans, Robertson (Anderson 78), Adam, Marshall; McGowan; Sow (Mullen 52). Unused subs: Ferrie, Byrne, McDaid, Elliott.
Referee: David Munro.