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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Rangers edge out tired Hearts
By BBC Sport Online's Clive Lindsay
Rangers 1-0 Hearts
It was a case of deja vu for Hearts at Ibrox as yet another backs-to-the-wall effort against a top-class team ended in a narrow defeat.
However, whereas Thursday's single-goal loss in Stuttgart gave Jim Jefferies' men a fighting chance for their Uefa Cup second leg, Sunday's defeat at Ibrox simply meant the loss of another three league points and the ending of any hopes they had of keeping in contention in the title race.
That's the harsh reality for Hearts: only seven games gone and already consigned to the role of also-rans.
In truth, as Jefferies had feared when he had asked Rangers to postpone the game, Hearts visibly wilted in the second half as their European exertions caught up with them.
Football, though, is a cut-throat business these days and the result justified Rangers manager Dick Advocaat's decision to turn down Hearts request as his side go forward to a Champions League trip to Monaco with another victory under their belts, safe in the knowledge that they are keeping pace with Old Firm rivals Celtic.
Both sides had been forced into changes, Rangers making three from their superb 5-0 victory over Sturm Graz in the Champions League and Hearts making two following their promising 1-0 defeat in Stuttgart in the Uefa Cup.
Fernando Ricksen replaced the injured Claudio Reyna at right back for Rangers, Tugay Kerimoglu took over the central midfield role vacated by the suspended Barry Ferguson, while Michael Mols, still not fit enough to endure three matches in a week, was rested in favour of Billy Dodds.
For Hearts, Steve Fulton returned to the midfield in place of the injured Scott Severin and Gary McSwegan was given a starting berth, with Darren Jackson dropping on to the bench.
Hearts manager Jim Jefferies adopted a similar formation to that which was so successful in Germany, but Rangers caused his defence more problems in the first seven minutes than Stuttgart had in 90.
Almost straight from the kick-off, a long ball from Ricksen was missed by Steven Pressley, but Dodds could not react quick enough and his header flew well wide from 10 yards.
Failed to capitalise
Dodds again failed to capitalise, turning the ball wide after Ronald De Boer broke into the box and sent a low ball into the six yard box.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst then played a neat one-two and only a superb saving tackle by Grant Murray prevent De Boer running clear.
Juanjo was first to threaten at the other end, but after beating Arthur Numan, he shot straight at Stefan Klos from an acute angle.
Indeed, Hearts should have taken the lead after 12 minutes when Gary Naysmith found Gary McSwegan unmarked 12 yards out, but the striker again headed straight at the goalkeeper.
The chances were coming thick and fast now and a Dodds header from a van Bronckhorst header was cleared off the line, then another glancing, near-post header from the diminutive striker flew just wide of the far upright.
Dodds finally had the ball in the net six minutes later, netting after Antti Niemi had superbly blocked his first attempt, but the Rangers man was ruled offside.
De Boer then sent Allan Johnston clear, but the winger blasted over from 14 yards.
However, Rangers' best effort came on the stroke of half-time when a van Bronckhorst corner found Bert Konterman, only for the defender's header find the outstretched hand of Niemi and the ball was booted clear by Pressley.
Hearts, now tiring after their delayed return from Germany, looked quite happy to sit back and absorb the pressure after the break.
However, Rangers' half-time change, bringing on winger Neil McCann for the disappointing Jorg Albertz, paid dividends after 58 minutes.
Tugay, who had become increasingly frustrated with his own distribution, finally got it right and released McCann in behind the Hearts defence.
Pick his spot
The Scotland internationalist's ball across the face of goal found Dodds, whose shot was saved by Niemi but deflected into the path of De Boer and the Dutchman had all the time in the world to pick his spot from eight yards.
Indeed, although the goals did not flow as they had on Wednesday, this was another De Boer masterclass as most of Rangers' more penetrating moves involved the recent signing from Barcelona.
He thoroughly deserved the ovation given to him by the 47,000 crowd as he was replaced in the closing minutes.
By then, Hearts had run out of ideas and energy, or any spirit of attacking adventure, to change the course of the game.
Rangers: Klos, Ricksen, Konterman, Amoruso, Numan, Johnston, Tugay, Van Bronckhorst, Albertz, Dodds, De Boer.
Subs: McCann, Miller, Vidmar, Lovenkrands, Charbonnier.
Hearts: Niemi, Murray, Naysmith, Petric, Pressley, Fulton, Cameron, Simpson, Flogel, McSwegan, Juanjo.
Subs: Rousset, Jackson, Kirk, Neilson, O'Neil.
Referee: Hugh Dallas
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