One goal enough to see off the Dons

It was Kevin Kyle's goal 40 seconds into the second half that proved to be enough to separate the sides as Hearts beat Aberdeen at Pittodrie yesterday. Referee Mike Tumilty was a busy man as he handed out seven yellow cards in a bruising encounter, with even Dons assistant manager Scott Leitch sent to the stand late on for expressing his views a bit too strongly. The Dons lined up against Hearts side which were immediately above them in the league table with four changes after their 2-0 defeat to Inverness before the International break. Chris Maguire, boosted by his stunning goal for Scotland Under-21s against Iceland, returned from suspension to replace Darren Mackie in the starting XI. The break from action allowed Mark McGhee to bring back injured trio Paul Hartley, Sone Aluko and Andrius Velicka to the action, the latter making his Dons bow after his loan move from Rangers. Marius Zaliukas returned for Hearts as his contractual dispute showed signs of easing. Spanish duo Ruben Palazuelos and Suso Santana also returned to action for the Jambos.

Hearts were first to threaten after four minutes, Kyle getting on the end of a Santana cross, but Dons keeper Mark Howard was happy to watch as the ball sailed into the stand. Aluko showed the first flash of his creative abilities after eight minutes as he strode forward from his own half, and picked out Maguire on the right. His cross narrowly evaded both Velicka and Scott Vernon. At the other end, Jambos striker Calum Elliot saw his shot from the edge of the area crash off Howard's right post just a minute later. Just after the quarter-hour mark, Kevin Kyle and Zander Diamond clashed in an aerial challenge, which earned Kyle a talking-to from referee Mike Tumilty. Kyle continued to remonstrate with Diamond, incensing the home support, but no further action was taken. Hearts had a chance when Santana took advantage of an Andrew Considine error to force a save from Howard. The game was starting to warm up nicely, and Hearts Darren Barr became the first name to enter the book for a cynical foul on Aluko, and Rudi Skacel quickly followed for scything down Maguire. Maguire also earned a booking himself shortly afterwards. A nice link-up on the right between Vernon and full-back Ross Jack then saw the former put in a low cross to the near post, which Marian Kello claimed under pressure from Velicka. In injury time, Maguire shot narrowly wide from 18 yards after being played in by Hartley, and the half ended with Dons keeper Mark Howard receiving treatment after he was challenged strongly.


Hearts took the lead within moments of the restart. Kyle had become a target for the home support following his clash with Diamond, but silenced the crowd as he threw himself full-length to head Elliott's cross beyond Howard. The goalkeeper had clearly not recovered from the knock he suffered on the stroke of half-time, though, as he was replaced by Jamie Langfield after 54 minutes. Three minutes later, Dons boss Mark McGhee used the second of his substitutes, throwing on Mackie in place of Velicka, who had been making his first appearance since suffering a cruciate ligament injury with Bristol City over a year ago. The physical element of the game continued, with Kyle picking up a yellow card for persistent fouling, and Zaliukas joining him for a crunching challenge on Maguire. With 20 minutes remaining, sub keeper Langfield also required treatment as he stretched to push Darren Barr's cross away from the sliding Skacel. The Dons began to push forward in search of a leveller, but that left them exposed at the back and they had Considine to thank for keeping them in the game when he blocked Kyle's close-range effort after a Santana cutback. Their frustration was clear to see as Diamond became the latest to be cautioned after a crunching late tackle on Elliott. Still it was Hearts who looked the more likely to score, and Jack had to be alert to head a Kyle header from a Skacel corner off the line. Dons substitute Ryan Fraser became the final player to pick up a card, and protests from the home dugout saw assistant boss Leitch sent to the stand.

Aberdeen; Howard (Langfield 54), McArdle, Diomand, Considine, Folly, Hartley, Aluko, Jack, MaGuire (Fraser 81), Vernon, Velika (Mackie 57)
Subs not used: Ifil, Young, Paton, Magennis

Hearts: Kellos, Barr, Bouzid, Zaliukas, Jonsson, Palazuelos, Santana (Elliot 81), Skacel (Stevenson 92), Mrowiec, Kyle, Elliot
Subs not used: Balogh, McGowan, Thomson, Templeton, Glen

Attendance: 8,999

Referee: Tumilty