Hearts thrash Aberdeen in seismic moment in race for third - and fans have message for Rangers boss
There is little doubt about who holds the bragging rights at the moment. Which is why Hearts fans were gleefully singing “are you watching Michel Beale?” as their side coasted to victory. Already third in the league, Hearts ran rampant in the first half of this head-to-head to extend their lead over the chasing pack and leave Aberdeen hurting.
Just days after his side gave a strong performance at Hampden, Don’s boss Jim Goodwin became the first since Mark McGhee in 2010 to lose five away games in succession and, with just one win in eight since the World Cup break, he will be aware of how dangerous Monday night’s Scottish Cup tie against non-league Darvel has become.
Hearts have their own cup tie, against capital rivals Hibs, on Sunday and will head into it in a buoyant mood. There was disappointment, though, when Toby Sibbick was forced off injured in the 74th minute. The central defender had played a blinder in pinging forward an inch pass for the second goal of the match and then snuffed out any withering hope Aberdeen had of getting back into things when he got back to make a precision tackle to thwart Bojan Miovski as he burst through one on one with goalkeeper Zander Clark.
Looking slightly lacklustre in the opening passages, Hearts were in clinical mood in front of goal, thought and when young James Hill unleashed his long-throw into a congested box, neither Ylber Ramadani nor Graeme Shinnie could clear effectively and as the ball dropped, Josh Ginnelly forced it over the line for his fourth goal of the season. He added his fifth in first-half stoppage time, but still has some way to go to get close to captain and top scorer Lawrence Shankland.
After the opener from Ginnelly, Sibbick’s long-bill found Michael Smith in an advanced position in the 28th minute. The veteran wing-back took a second to compose himself and pick out his spot before curling the effort beyond Joe Lewis, who was making his first start of the season, with Goodwin’s first-choice keeper Kelle Roos out for 10 weeks with a thigh tear.
The third goal came from the main man after VAR intervened to call referee Willie Collum’s attention to a Liam Scales handball. Sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, Shankland moved within one goal of equalling John Robertson’s long-standing tally of 20 goals in a season.
The Hammer of the Hibs’s record has stood since 91/92 and while Shankland would have loved to match it in this one, the prospect of doing so in a derby, will have a certain lure, making him even more of a danger to Lee Johnson’s men on Sunday.
The fourth came in stoppage time as Ginnelly added his second. That left Goodwin re-enacting Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
There was only one more goal in the second half as Cammy Devlin scored in 62 minutes and Aberdeen’s late ‘consolation’ effort from Marley Watkins was chalked off for offside following another VAR intervention.
But the major plus for Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was the opportunity such a big cushion afforded him to rest players ahead of the trip to Leith.