Dundee United 3-0 Hearts
CSABA LASZLO suffered the heaviest defeat of his Hearts tenure as Dundee United finished comfortable victors, their bullish attacking style proving too much for the visitors to combat. Goals from the impressive Craig Conway, Jon Daly and Scott Robertson secured a convincing victory on a day when Hearts simply couldn't get going.
Craig Levein, the United manager, has a fine record against his former club and this showed no sign of abating at Tannadice. Although Laszlo's side produced some cohesive passing movements, they toiled to control the physical threat of strikers Daly and Fran Sandaza, whilst Conway's industrious midfield play and intelligent free-kicks were instrumental in the home win.
A goal down at the interval, Hearts emerged hoping to gain a foothold in proceedings after a disjointed first-half display. However, United increased the pace to finish off their opponents, who had Eggert Jonsson sent off on 75 minutes for two bookable offences.
It was difficult to say whether the week's wages saga had affected the visitors' performance but, with that settled, they would have been expected to produce more for the travelling support.
Hearts, with the same side that defeated Inverness last weekend, survived an early fright when Daly's near-post header bounced back off the crossbar on five minutes. Careless defending by Lee Wallace then allowed Dundee United full-back Sean Dillon to gallop through on Marian Kello, but the imposing Slovakian beat the shot away with two strong hands.
United were enjoying the early ascendancy and Kello was again called upon on 23 minutes when Robertson glanced Willo Flood's free-kick goalwards. The Hearts goalkeeper showed sound reactions and agility to tip the ball for a corner, but United's aerial threat was becoming an increasing danger to the visitors. Indeed, a deliberate tactic for Craig Levein's side was to deliver high crosses and free-kicks onto Kello's six-yard line, thereby piling Daly and the equally physical Sandaza on top of the goalkeeper.
Saulius Mikoliunas, Hearts' most assertive player of the afternoon, drove the ball into Lukasz Zaluska's arms in the 37th minute, but there was little debating the hosts' dominance during the opening 45 minutes. When they moved ahead, it was just reward for their endeavours. Michael Stewart was cautioned for a late tackle on Conway, and the United midfielder curled his free-kick high beyond Kello into the top left-hand corner from all of 30 yards.
Hearts didn't heed the warning and moments later Morgaro Gomis' venomous effort skimmed the crossbar on its way over. Laszlo would have recognised that he had his work cut out at the interval to rally his troops.
Within five minutes of the restart however, United had doubled their advantage. Willo Flood's cross seemed innocuous enough but Daly was permitted time to chest the ball down and volley goalwards from ten yards. Despite getting a hand to the ball, Kello could only divert it into the net via his right post. On 61 minutes, referee Dougie McDonald awarded a debatable free-kick against Hearts and, from Conway's delivery, Robertson nodded his first league goal to put the result beyond doubt.
For all they had been second best, 3-0 appeared a tad harsh on the visitors. At times they offered tidy passing movements but, once again, lacked impetus in the final third. Mike Tullberg and Christian Nade were by now on as substitutes and Laszlo will be particularly keen to restore the Dane to full fitness in order to revitalise his attack.
As if the afternoon hadn't been damaging enough for Hearts, McDonald opted to dismiss Jonsson in the 75th minute for persistent fouling. The Icelander can consider himself slightly harshly dealt with but it could not be denied that Conway, who he fouled to incur a second caution, had overwhelmed him down United's left flank.
Mikoliunas struck a post six minutes from time, the Edinburgh side commendably refusing to simply accept defeat. But, in the end, the three points deservedly stayed on Tayside.
Dundee United (4-4-2): Zaluska; Dillon, Dods, Wilkie, Dixon; Flood, Robertson, Gomis, Conway; Daly, Sandaza. Subs: McGovern, Grainger, O'Donovan 59 (for Sandaza), Swanson 90 (for Flood), Kenneth, Buaben, Goodwillie.
Hearts (4-4-1-1): Kello; Jonsson, Zaliukas, Berra, Wallace; Kingston, Karipidis, Stewart, Mikoliunas; Ksanavicius; Mole. Subs: Balogh, Palazuelos 68 (for Stewart), Aguiar, Tullberg 59 (for Mole), Nade 53 (for Ksanavicius), Thomson, Rapnik.
Referee: Dougie McDonald.
Taken from the Scotsman