London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2008-09--> All for 20080816
<-Page <-Team Sat 16 Aug 2008 Rangers 2 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Sunday Herald ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Michael Grant auth-> Stuart Dougal
Mikoliunas Saulius [K Lafferty 37] ;[K Boyd pen 91]
6 of 023 ----- L SPL A

Mendes masterclass


Michael Grant at Ibrox

IT WAS lucky for Rangers that when Pedro Mendes turned to the internet for information on the club he used Google rather than going direct to any supporters' websites.

All Mendes saw was the history and scale of the club rather than the vitriol being poured over its management. Yesterday, he introduced himself with a classy man-of-the-match debut which may have convinced a few of the critics to step down from the window ledge.

After a furious week, Ibrox was becalmed by a comfortable enough win against a Hearts side in which Saulius Mikoliunas was sent off against Rangers for the third time in an SPL career during which he has cast himself as a pantomime villain.

There had been talk of protests and demonstrations before the match but Rangers had put in enough of a shift in the transfer market since Carlos Cuellar's departure to lessen the appetite for those. Hundreds of supporters did mill around the front of the Bill Struth Main Stand in near silence around an hour before kick-off - the mood was watchful and vigilant rather than anything more sinister - but they applauded when Maurice Edu emerged from a club car at the stadium entrance.

Inside there was a single banner in the Broomloan Road end which simply said: "We Deserve Better". There was nothing nastier than that. Without kicking a ball - or even formally completing their transfers in the case of Edu and Steve Davis - the new blood saved owner Sir David Murray from a far rougher ride.

Rangers have agreed a £2.5 million fee with Major League Soccer and personal terms with Edu, the 22-year-old Toronto FC defensive midfielder, and a deal should be finalised this week. A £3m fee has finally been agreed with Fulham as well for Davis, who is close to finalising personal terms, and with Mendes arriving for £3m from Portsmouth the £7.8m received for Cuellar has flashed in and out of Rangers' hands.

"I did feel the midfield was the one area we had to improve on in terms of our overall possession of the ball," said Smith. "There is maybe one more position we are looking to improve on."

Mendes went straight into the heart of midfield for a busy, effective debut as the orchestrator of their play. If it was somewhat humbling for a player who was surplus to requirements at Portsmouth to instantly hoard all the man of the match awards on his Rangers' debut, it was also unavoidable. He was easily the best player on the pitch.

Kyle Lafferty made Rangers' winner on the SPL's opening day against Falkirk last weekend and this time he scored the opening goal. A Rangers free-kick seemed to have come to nothing until Madjid Bougherra showed tenacity to reclaim possession drive down the right. His low cross sped past Lee McCulloch into the path of Lafferty. It was clear long before he made contact that the young Irishman intended to place a low, right foot shot into the corner of the net.

Lafferty succumbed to a hamstring strain in the second half and Smith said he would need "a few days' rest", which would rule him out of Northern Ireland's midweek friendly at Hampden.

Hearts looked organised and assured but did not threaten. The goalkeeper they signed last week, Marian Kello from Kaunas, was on the bench and the club confirmed that their previous first choice, Steve Banks, will work only as a coach from now on and is unlikely to be used again as a player. Their supporters brought some Lithuanian flags in a bid to taunt Rangers about going out of Europe to their unofficial sister club, Kaunas, but it was one of few pleasures for them on a grimly familiar day.

They began well enough and were physical and willing throughout, but Allan McGregor was given little to do beyond an excellent double save from Andy Driver and then Audrius Ksanavicius at the start of the second half.

Mikoliunas's silly cameo contribution handicapped his team yet again. He was sent off twice against Rangers in 2005 and memories of those cards, and his infamous dive to earn a penalty for Lithuania in the Euro 2008 qualifier at Hampden, meant he was jeered on as a 65th-minute substitute. There were heckles again when he was booked two minutes later for another dive and gleeful laughter when he lunged in on Kenny Miller for a crude tackle to earn a second yellow card after six more.

The Miko show had lasted eight minutes and he trooped off with the flurry of gestures and expressions of injustice everyone has seen so often before.

Playing Rangers a man short was an insurmountable disadvantage and although manager Csaba Laszlo said he was pleased that his side kept its shape after the red card, all Hearts had to show for it was a penalty claim three minutes from time when Driver's shot struck Bougherra's arm at close range. Rangers' new defender could hardly avoid the contact. "It was maybe ball to hand rather than hand to ball, so it might have been harsh on him," said goalkeeper Jamie McDonald. "The red card maybe stopped us having a go at them at the end of the game."

Miller was the architect of Rangers' second in stoppage time, although not its scorer. He cut into the Hearts box and having slipped one defender he was about to shoot when Lee Wallace fouled him for a clear penalty. Miller is in need of a goal to make his life a little more comfortable with the supporters but Boyd was in no mood for charity and took the kick himself to score low and hard into the corner.

Rangers substitutes: Milller for McCulloch 59, Beasley for Lafferty 63, Darcheville for Velicka 82. Subs not used: Alexander, Dailly, Furman, Fleck. Booked: Thomson 22

Hearts substitutes: Nade for Ksanavicius 50, Mikoliunas for Kingston 65, Cesnauskis for Mole 75. Subs not used: Kello, Palazuelos, Makela, Jonsson. Booked: Kingston 17, Mikoliunas 67, 73, Wallace 90.

Sent-off: Mikoliunas 73 Referee: S. Dougal Att: 48,191

Taken from the Sunday Herald

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