Hearts 1-3 Rangers: Steven Gerrard's team put Celtic title party on hold
By Andrew Dickson
Last Updated: 20/04/19 3:32pm
Celtic will have to wait at least another week for their eighth successive Scottish title after Rangers eased to a straightforward 3-1 win at Scottish Cup finalists Hearts.
Steven Gerrard's side went to Tynecastle Park knowing they had to take maximum points in order to prevent a possible Celtic title party at Hibernian on Sunday.
They duly delivered the victory they needed with a dominant performance as Jermain Defoe and Ryan Jack struck before the break and Nikola Katic and Steven MacLean traded goals afterwards.
Rangers have now won their last seven games against Hearts, including four this season, and are now all but assured of a second-placed finish - their best since returning to the top flight.
Hearts went into the match off the back of a 3-0 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle last weekend which put them into their first Scottish Cup final in seven years.
Yet it was Rangers who began with more purpose as first Daniel Candeias, then Scott Arfield had a go without success.
Defoe was more clinical, however, as Jon Flanagan won possession on the quarter hour and found Glen Kamara, who released the forward, who only needed one touch to finish.
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Candeias and Arfield had further attempts but could not finish and, with that, Hearts began to come into the game as Katic had to block Oliver Bozanic's effort and Uche Ikpeazu missed twice.
Rangers' punishment of the latter wayward attempt was ruthless, with Bozanic dispossessed in midfield moments later and Candeias picking out Jack for a calmly-executed second.
Hearts: Zlamal (5), Smith (6), Souttar (5), Berra (5), Burns (5), Lee (6), Bozanic (5), Wighton (5), Djoum (5), Mulraney (6), Ikpeazu (5)
Subs: MacLean (6), Cochrane (4), Dikamona (2)
Rangers: McGregor (6), Tavernier (6), Goldson (6), Katic (7), Flanagan (6), Davis (8), Kamara (8), Jack (7), Candeias (8), Arfield (7), Defoe (8)
Subs: Middleton (4), Lafferty (2), Polster (1)
Man of the match: Daniel Candeias
It looked a long way back from there for Hearts and three minutes after the restart the game was finished as a contest.
Steven Davis' short corner to Candeias saw the Portuguese winger swing in a sumptuous deep ball to the back post, where Katic was on hand to turn in his first league goal from close range.
Hearts did pull one back - substitute MacLean heading in Jake Mulraney's cross then appearing to gesture towards his own fans - but Rangers were comfortable throughout and worthy winners.
Craig Levein: "We played with uncertainty. The plan was to press and try to win the ball high up the field and we didn't all go as a group.
"Because of that we got picked off. The goals were a little bit self-inflicted again but I was more concerned we didn't get the pressing right.
"It's about pressing together as a team and we didn't do that properly today. That creates uncertainty and we then allowed Rangers to play through us at times."
Steven Gerrard: "We stood up to Hearts in every single department and when our moments came - which we knew they would - we played some excellent football and executed our good play really well.
"We are at our best when we are aggressive in and out of possession. We knew Hearts would give us the ball back in certain areas of the pitch.
"It was down to us to show the quality we needed to do to go and score goals and we could maybe have scored another couple today."
Live on Sky
Rangers' next fixture - next Sunday's trip to Aberdeen - is live on Sky Sports Football, while you can see Hearts in their Scottish Cup final rehearsal with Celtic live on the same channel on May 19 - six days before their Hampden meeting.