Scottish Premiership
Kilmarnock1Hearts2

Kilmarnock 1-2 Hearts: Hosts miss chance to close gap on leaders Celtic

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Highlights - Kilmarnock 1-2 Hearts

Kilmarnock missed the chance to narrow the gap on Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic to three points as Hearts inflicted their first home loss in three months.

Two goals in five first-half minutes from Sean Clare and Steven Naismith put the visitors into a commanding lead.

Jordan Jones then pulled a goal back from the spot moments before half-time.

Despite a late siege, though, Hearts did enough to claim the victory to move within a point of Aberdeen in fourth.

Kilmarnock could finish the weekend nine points adrift of Celtic if Brendan Rodgers' side win in Perth on Sunday, while a victory for Aberdeen over Hibs would leave Steve Clarke's side in fourth.

Naismith factor felt at Rugby Park

This was dogged stuff on a chilly night in Ayrshire. There was little in the early exchanges to heat up the brave souls who ventured to Rugby Park, a Michael Smith effort flagged for offside on 11 minutes the most exciting moment.

However, the game burst into life as the match ticked towards half-time and it was the visitors who edged into the lead on 38 minutes.

A neat interchange at the edge of the Kilmarnock box enabled Clare to jink past a static home defence and fire a low right-footed shot in off the far post for his first league goal.

It should have come as little surprise that Naismith was again at the heart of the Tynecastle club's crusade to their 13th win of the league campaign as Craig Levein's side soon doubled their lead.

The move was a piece of magic straight off the training ground. A quick free-kick was played out to Jake Mulraney peeling off on the left, and his low cutback found Naismith perfectly as the former Kilmarnock man steered the ball into the net from 12 yards.

Hearts have won 18 out of the 22 games Naismith has played in this season, and his experience was pivotal in Hearts seeing this match out as Kilmarnock tried to come back into things.

Their lifeline came just a minute before the break with Christophe Berra, fresh from signing a new Hearts deal earlier this week, bringing down Alan Power in a clumsy challenge in the box for Jones to convert.

Clarke's men upped their game after the break but their pressure yielded little reward. On-loan Liverpool striker Liam Miller should have done better from a header but, in the end, Hearts were not troubled enough in the final third.

Alan Power
Alan Power went down under the challenge of Christophe Berra to win a penalty

'Clare goal changes game'- analysis

BBC Scotland's Brian McLauchlin at Rugby Park

Opportunities were at a premium in the opening 30 minutes, but goals change games and Clare is now beginning to repay the faith shown in him by Levein. His terrific first touch allowed him the space and time to slot home the opener but his work rate throughout was excellent.

And with John Souttar, Berra and Naismith back in the team after lengthy spells out, Hearts look more like the side who took the Premiership by storm early in the season.

Clarke's team will play poorer and win games. They piled on the pressure in the second half but rarely tested Colin Doyle in the Hearts goal. It may be at the end of the season that there will be very little between the teams.

'It's difficult to get past three big lumps' - reaction

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke: "Fair play to Hearts, they were clever, but if you bring out the yellow cards at the start rather than the end, it allows your creative players to play.

"Disappointing result, but the performance was really good. Hearts came here to make it difficult for us and we fell asleep for the first goal. It is difficult when you have big three lumps defending their goal."

Hearts manager Craig Levein: "It was a typically tough match, but I am really thrilled as it's not an easy place to get anything.

"That's two wins we have down here this season at a place where so many find it difficult."

Line-ups

Kilmarnock

  • 26Bachmann
  • 2O'Donnell
  • 16Boyd
  • 17Findlay
  • 3TaylorSubstituted forMillarat 78'minutes
  • 27TshibolaBooked at 89minsSubstituted forBroadfootat 89'minutes
  • 8Dicker
  • 6Power
  • 29BurkeSubstituted forMcKenzieat 78'minutes
  • 12NdjoliBooked at 90mins
  • 11JonesBooked at 42mins

Substitutes

  • 1MacDonald
  • 4Bruce
  • 5Broadfoot
  • 7McKenzie
  • 18Waters
  • 19Millar
  • 21Frizzell

Hearts

  • 13Doyle
  • 4Souttar
  • 3Shaughnessy
  • 6BerraBooked at 72mins
  • 2SmithSubstituted forDikamonaat 85'minutes
  • 10Sutchuin-Djoum
  • 7Bozanic
  • 23MulraneySubstituted forMitchellat 68'minutes
  • 38MorrisonSubstituted forLeeat 45'minutes
  • 14Naismith
  • 9ClareBooked at 84mins

Substitutes

  • 1Zlamal
  • 8Lee
  • 11Mitchell
  • 18MacLean
  • 20Cochrane
  • 28Dikamona
  • 35Keena
Referee:
Steven McLean
Attendance:
5,552

Match Stats

Home TeamKilmarnockAway TeamHearts
Possession
Home56%
Away44%
Shots
Home15
Away6
Shots on Target
Home6
Away3
Corners
Home4
Away0
Fouls
Home14
Away17

Live Text

Match ends, Kilmarnock 1, Heart of Midlothian 2.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Kilmarnock 1, Heart of Midlothian 2.

Booking

Mikael Ndjoli (Kilmarnock) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Mikael Ndjoli (Kilmarnock).

(Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Kilmarnock. Kirk Broadfoot replaces Aaron Tshibola.

Booking

Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock).

Demetri Mitchell (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock).

Demetri Mitchell (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Substitution

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Clévid Dikamona replaces Michael Smith because of an injury.

Attempt missed. Demetri Mitchell (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from very close range is close, but misses to the left.

Stephen O'Donnell (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Booking

Sean Clare (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Sean Clare (Heart of Midlothian).

Attempt saved. Rory McKenzie (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Attempt missed. Liam Millar (Kilmarnock) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

Gary Dicker (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Sean Clare (Heart of Midlothian).

Substitution

Substitution, Kilmarnock. Rory McKenzie replaces Chris Burke.

Substitution

Substitution, Kilmarnock. Liam Millar replaces Greg Taylor.

Attempt blocked. Mikael Ndjoli (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is blocked.

Corner, Kilmarnock. Conceded by Christophe Berra.

Foul by Mikael Ndjoli (Kilmarnock).

John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Stephen O'Donnell (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Steven Naismith (Heart of Midlothian).

Booking

Christophe Berra (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card.

Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Olly Lee (Heart of Midlothian).

Alan Power (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Djoum (Heart of Midlothian).

Foul by Michael Smith (Heart of Midlothian).

Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Demetri Mitchell replaces Jake Mulraney.

Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Djoum (Heart of Midlothian).

Foul by Aaron Tshibola (Kilmarnock).

Jake Mulraney (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Celtic23163455144151
2Rangers23136447182945
3Kilmarnock24136535231245
4Aberdeen23134637241343
5Hearts2413383129242
6St Johnstone2311482628-237
7Hibernian238873324932
8Livingston238692623330
9Motherwell2383122233-1127
10Hamilton2342171449-3514
11Dundee2334161748-3113
12St Mirren2333171646-3012
View full Scottish Premiership table

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