Abdallah Sima on target as Rangers beat Hearts again
Brighton loanee Sima struck in the 34th minute.
Rangers beat Hearts for the third time in six weeks with a first-half goal from Abdallah Sima at Tynecastle.
After a cinch Premiership defeat at Ibrox and a loss against the Light Blues in the Viaplay Cup semi-final at Hampden Park, Steven Naismith’s side again came up short against Rangers.
Having scored twice in the 2-0 home win over St Mirren on Sunday, Brighton loanee Sima struck again in the 34th minute to take the three points back to Govan.
With Celtic beating Hibernian 4-1 at Parkhead, Rangers are still eight points behind the leaders having played a game less with Philippe Clement extending his unbeaten run since taking over as boss to 11 matches.
The third-placed Jambos went into the game with four straight home league wins for the first time for five years but will have to start another run.
There was a familiar name on the Hearts bench as former Scotland number one Craig Gordon returned after almost a year having recovered from breaking his leg against Dundee United on Christmas Eve.
The 40-year-old instantly put pressure on the club’s other Scotland keeper Zander Clark, who also has hopes of making Euro 2024 and he had a mixed evening.
Craig Halkett and Barrie McKay also returned from lengthy spells out while Nathaniel Atkinson and Kyosuke Tagawa were reinstated to the starting line-up as Yutaro Oda and Liam Boyce dropped out altogether.
For the visitors left-back Ridvan Yilmaz took over from Borna Barisic, missing altogether, with Brazilian striker Danilo in for Cyriel Dessers.
In the 11th minute Hearts skipper Lawrence Shankland blasted a shot over the bar on the break after Yilmaz had carelessly lost possession leaving the Rangers rearguard exposed.
Rangers midfielder Tom Lawrence limped off in the 17th minute to be replaced by Jose Cifuentes.
In the 25th minute, as Hearts drove their way into the Rangers box, Shankland’s shot from 12 yards was parried by keeper Jack Butland with Alex Cochrane’s shot from the rebound blocked by the body of James Tavernier.
Danilo had the ball in the Hearts net from eight yards just before the half-hour mark but was offside.
However, when Tavernier broke out of defence and split the Jambos backline with a well-weighted pass, Sima sped clear and when Clark rushed out from his goal, he slipped the ball past him for his 12th goal of the season.
Minutes later, Todd Cantwell lobbed the ball just over the bar from close range and then Clark stuck his foot out to deny Danilo from just a few yards.
Atkinson and Jorge Grant were replaced by Oda and Kenneth Vargas at the start of the second half but it was Rangers who reasserted.
In the 51st minute Tavernier’s curling free-kick into the Hearts box was dropped by Clark but Danilo’s shot was blocked by Tagawa and the home side escaped again, as they did minutes later when Yilmaz’s angled-drive flew wide of the far post.
Clark parried a long-distance drive from John Lundstram and Yilmaz fired the rebound high over the bar, before Kemar Roofe and Dujon Sterling took over from Danilo and Yilmaz.
Just before that, Butland made a fantastic save from Vargas’ powerful left-footed drive, which raised Jambo hopes.
In the 79th minute Clark made a fine stop with his foot after Sima had been set up by Roofe but the offside flag was up.
Rangers had to do some stout defending in the closing stages as Hearts went all out but they kept the door closed to keep on Celtic’s coat tails.