|Report Index--> 2005-06--> All for 20051120|
|<-Page||<-Team||Sun 20 Nov 2005 Aberdeen 1 Hearts 1||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Daily Record ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|Graham Rix||<-auth||Gary Ralston||auth->||Craig Thomson|
|[James Smith 13]|
|23||of 029||Rudi Skacel 64||L SPL||A|
RUDI GETS RIX OUT OF A FIX
ABERDEEN 1 HEARTS 1 Skacel strike earns Hearts a draw but new coach still sees his side drop from their share of the SPL summit
By Gary Ralston
THE third Romanov dynasty was halted in its tracks by the Red Army as Aberdeen helped old boy Gordon Strachan stay clear at the top of the SPL.
Hearts owner Vladimir and chairman son Roman looked on at Pittodrie yesterday as new boss Graham Rix, following in the footsteps of John Robertson and George Burley, failed to take the side back alongside Celtic at the summit.
Thankfully the ugly sideshows predicted around the arrival of Rix in such a high-profile position in Scottish football failed to materialise.
He will have found that a relief but would surely have taken all the verbal abuse going if it would have brought his side three points in his first match in charge.
In truth the scoreline was a fair reflection of a game that was enthralling without ever threatening to become wildly entertaining.
Jamie Smith fired the Dons in front early on before Rudi Skacel scored his 11th goal of the season with a deflected volley off Gary Dempsey midway through the second half.
Rix stepped off the Hearts team bus on Pittodrie Street 90 minutes before kick-off to be greeted by a couple of dozen curious onlookers, most of them home fans.
A group of six Jambos had clearly raided the linen closet that morning and made a banner welcoming Rix to his new job and they shouted a roar of welcome as he stepped on to the pavement.
Clearly Blue Peter badge holders in the past, they also waved a tinfoil replica of the SPL trophy to remind him of the criteria on which he will be judged by Tynecastle fans.
Rix was escorted down the track before kick-off by a Dons security official but the only danger came from the throng of photographers who crowded round the dugout to get the first picture of him in his new environment.
Jimmy Calderwood greeted Rix with a bear hug that threatened to squeeze the life out of him but the former Chelsea No.2 must have felt like reaching over and strangling the Dons boss as the home side took the lead after only 12 minutes. Full back Richie Byrne popped up at the edge of the box and nudged a pass left to Scott Muirhead, whose low cross along the six-yard line was diverted out to man-of-the-match Smith.
The winger didn't even have to break his stride as he ran on to the ball and buried a low drive into the corner of Craig Gordon's net from 12 yards.
The start to the game was as bright as the low winter sunshine that flooded Pittodrie but thankfully for Rix there was little in the way of heat generated towards him in relation to events of his past. Paul Hartley almost gave Hearts the lead in the opening minute with a curling free-kick from 30 yards that deceived the Dons defence but thankfully for Ryan Esson it dropped inches wide of his left-hand post.
Aberdeen may lack a midfield ball winner in the absence of injury victim Scott Severin but they certainly do not lack aggression.
They broke from the centre of the park and teed up Steve Crawford minutes before Smith's strike, but Gordon held his shot from the edge of the box comfortably.
At the other end Hartley robbed Byrne and dropped a deep cross to the back post, where Edgaras Jankauskas was lurking, but his left-foot volley billowed the side net.
The trademarks of Hearts' season to date have been a front-footed approach to the game, allied to a high-tempo approach that has taken them to the top of the SPL alongside Celtic.
However, Hearts were struggling to impose themselves this time as Aberdeen flew into the tackles, a little too heavily at times as Michael Hart and Chris Clark were booked in the first half for clattering Saulius Mikoliunas and Julien Brellier.
Skacel almost equalised midway through the first half with a fierce left-foot shot Esson touched round the post after Jankauskas had robbed Russell Anderson on the goal line.
Barry Nicholson also stepped in with a last-gasp tackle on Jankauskas as he prepared to pull the trigger - Zander Diamond did the same as half time approached - but Aberdeen were hardly watching in admiration. Nicholson almost added a second on the half-hour with a right-foot shot from the edge of the box that whizzed inches wide and Scotland keeper Gordon also did well in first-half injury time when he dived low to save a Smith shot after the Jambos defence failed to clear their lines.
Mind you, skipper Steven Pressley had almost been a hero moments earlier when he joined the attack and glanced a header wide from a Mikoliunas cross with Esson beaten.
Those two first-half cautions had left the game simmering and the names of Crawford and Brellier were added to ref Craig Thomson's book early in a second half that was high on passion but short on quality.
Nicholson flashed a free-kick inches over after Brellier had upended Smith at the edge of the area.
However, that was one of few chances of note as Hearts, and especially Hartley, began to show their frustration as the Scotland man looked to be involved in a war of words with the home fans in the South Stand.
But all was forgotten by the Jambos in 64 minutes when Skacel hauled his side level with a goal out of the blue.
A long pass from defence was hit more in hope than expectation but Jankauskas did enough in the air to knock the ball in the direction of the Czech midfielder.
He looked up from 25 yards and although his volley did not look as if it would ordinarily trouble Esson, it took a major deflection off sub Dempsey and flew up and over the stranded Dons keeper into the net.
Eight minutes later Hearts almost grabbed the lead with Skacel again the architect, making space just inside the box before firing in a shot Esson could only parry.
The ball broke to the keeper's right, but unfortunately for the Jambos it fell to defender Pressley and he knocked his eight-yard effort wildly over.
Dempsey,who replaced Hart at half time,tried to make amends late on but drew his right-foot shot wide of goal as both sides searched for the goal which,ultimately,would prove the winner.
Skacel came close again with a left-foot free-kick he whipped in and which grazed Esson's post, but it was the last chance of note for either side.
Darren Mackie and Diamond were booked late on, with the latter's clumsy tackle on Skacel in the final minute causing him more harm as he was carried from the pitch with a knee injury
MAN OF THE MATCH Jamie Smith (Aberdeen
Compiled by Gary Ralston ABERDEEN Ryan Esson
7Did what little he had to do well and without fuss.
Michael Hart A pacy danger from defence before injury struck.
Russell Anderson A rock at the centre of the Dons defence.
Zander Diamond Solid show from big defender who kept it neat and simple.
Richie Byrne A first-half danger from left, on back foot second half.
Jamie Smith His contribution was always positive but starved of second-half service. Barry Nicholson Aggressive, penetrating display. Chris Clark Linked well first half and defensively sound in second.
Scott Muirhead Lively midfield performance kept Jambos defence on toes.
Stevie Crawford Worked the forward line well but few chances to shine.
Darren Mackie6 Little chance to impress with Steven Pressley and Andy Webster dominant SubsGary Dempsey - Unlucky with deflection at goal, 5. Richard Foster - Little chance to impress, 3. Andrew Considine - Last-minute replacement for injured Diamond, 2
HEARTS Craig Gordon 7 Helpless at goal but otherwise safe and secure performance as ever.
Robbie Neilson 6 Decent enough defensive shift but rarely moved forward.
Steven Pressley 7 Defensively sound and always set-piece threat.
Andy Webster 7 Solid and commanding in the centre of Jambos defence.
Takis Fyssas 7 Decent distribution from the back and always forward danger.
Rudi Skacel 6 Finished the game strongly but off key before equalising strike.
Paul Hartley 6 Well marshalled by Dons midfield but improved late on.
Julien Brellier 6 Offered good protection for his back four with midfield graft.
Saulius Mikoliunas 6 Occasional flashes but killer pass was always elusive.
Michal Pospisil 5 Looked flat footed and off pace before half-time hook.
Edgaras Jankauskas 6 Put himself about well but honours fell to Anderson
Subs Deividas Cesnauskas - Unable to make an impact, 3.
|<-Page||<-Team||Sun 20 Nov 2005 Aberdeen 1 Hearts 1||Team->||Page->|