Hearts break Dons resistance
By Phil Jackson
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Valdas Ivanauskas eased some of the pressure on his shoulders with a 3-1 win.
Valdas Ivanauskas eased some of the pressure on his shoulders with a much needed 3-1 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie, which took Hearts to within three points of Celtic.
Second half goals from Christophe Berra (64), Mauricio Pinilla (76) and Saulius Mikoliunas (81) secured all three points for the visitors, who had Chilean striker Pinilla sent off late in the game for a second bookable offence.
The Dons dominated the early exchanges on a wet day in Aberdeen, but failed to make their possession pay until a late consolation scored by Dyron Daal in the 82nd minute.
Aberdeen came steaming out of the traps and it was not until the 21st minute that Pinilla finally got hold of the ball, but when he did he was forced wide and could only direct a shot from a tight angle past the near post.
Goalkeeper Jamie Langfield was forced into a fine stop from Lee Wallace eight minutes later, when the Dons man let fly from 30 yards, but the shot-stopper was equal to the task and managed to tip the blistering effort away from danger.
Both sides were testing the opposition keepers in the wet conditions, with Gary Dempsey and Lee Miller both going close for the Dons, and Darren Mackie clipped the top of Craig Gordon's crossbar.
But it was Richard Foster who had the last significant impact of the half, when his left foot curler seemed destined for the top corner before a fine stop from Gordon at full stretch saw the ball beaten wide and the first half end 0-0.
Pinilla had a great chance to open the scoring as the second half got underway, when a Paul Hartley cross into the middle found Pinilla free in the box, but the poacher somehow contrived to direct his header wide.
Roman Bednar was proving a handful, but he spurned a great chance to put Hearts ahead when played through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat, but had his shot well saved by the legs of Langfield.
But the pressure was building from the Ivanauskas' men as Neil McCann continued to battle for his team. It was his powerful run which earnt a free-kick just after the hour mark and Hartley's delivery found Berra in the middle, who chested the ball in at the back stick to put Hearts into a 1-0 lead.
When some fine interplay from the visitors saw Hearts double their lead. Pinilla found himself free in the box and finished the move by slotting the ball home past the unfortunate Langfield to make it 2-0.
Five minutes later and the rout was complete when Mikoliunas found himself in on goal. The Dons defence was all at sea and Mikoliunas took advantage with a fine pass shot around the stranded Langfield, to make it 3-0.
Daal responded at the other end with a fine touch and finish around the leaden footed Hearts defence to make it 3-1. Pinilla was handed a second yellow for throwing the ball away in the 84th minute, but it was too little to late for Jimmy Calderwood's men as their blunt attack saw it finish 3-1 to the visitors.