How Hearts goal-scoring defenders inflicted Jim Goodwin's first defeat as Aberdeen boss

Looking to time their run and force their way into the top six when the league splits in two in another four games’ time, Aberdeen were looking to follow up previous results against Hearts, with another points haul.

Stephen Kingsley celebrates after scoring Hearts' second goal in the win over Aberdeen. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Stephen Kingsley celebrates after scoring Hearts' second goal in the win over Aberdeen. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

But, if they want to mix it with the big boys in the latter part of the season, they are going to have to cut out the errors that pepper their performances.

Taking in the bigger picture, the Pittodrie outfit are hardly on the same canvas as Robbie Neilson’s men this season, but, focusing in on isolated meetings with the third-placed side, there was some cause for hope as they travelled to the capital looking to add to the four points garnered from the previous two head-to-heads.

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This time, though, the hosts offered them little encouragement, asserting their superiority from the outset.

Starting the game in attack mode, they refused to back off until they were well through the first half.

Aberdeen finally found some kind of foothold in the game around the half hour mark, but having withstood Hearts’ early onslaught, as the game opened up slightly, they left a door ajar at the back and Hearts barged through.

John Souttar was the man who made the breakthrough in the 37th minute, slamming his shot from inside the box past Joe Lewis after the guests had given them one too many bites at it.

The free-kick in from Gary Mackay-Steven was swung back into the area by Cammy Devlin and Craig Halkett’s header was only partially cleared and Souttar made them pay.

After his performance at the weekend, Ellis Simms had been uprooted from the bench and, along with Liam Boyce, he caused problems for Aberdeen.

In the opening period both strikers, and both wide men, Mackay-Steven and Barrie McKay had decent efforts but for all Hearts dominance there was some concern bourne of recent performances in which missed opportunities were ultimately rued.

This time, though Hearts were more clinical and having opened the scoring before the interval, with quality oozing from the backline, they were comfortable throughout the second half.

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They had been offered a wake-up call when Aberdeen managed to get the ball in the back of Craig Gordon’s net, in the 30th minute, but the assistant referee’s flag was already raised to signal offside. Christian Ramirez than had a stab from long range but even when Jim Goodwin’s men were awarded a hotly-disputed penalty in the 70th minute, they never really threatened Hearts.

Hearts had already doubled their advantage by then, when Stephen Kingsley bulleted a header past Lewis on the hour mark, and when Lewis Ferguson faced up to Scotland’s number one, he was found wanting as Gordon dived to his right to prevent the spot kick sneaking inside the post and, on first viewing, it seemed justice was done.

Halkett made a claim for a penalty of his own later in the match but referee Steve McLean was not convinced.

The home team didn’t need it, though, as they eased through the remainder of the contest.

Behind them, the leading chasers all slipped up, allowing Hearts to increase their lead. But those results also mean that despite being out-classed in this one, Aberdeen are still in the hunt for top six.

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