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|<-Page||<-Team||Sat 16 Aug 2008 Rangers 2 Hearts 0||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Daily Record ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|Csaba Laszlo||<-auth||None||auth->||Stuart Dougal|
|Mikoliunas Saulius||[K Lafferty 37] ;[K Boyd pen 91]|
|19||of 023||-----||L SPL||A|
Rangers 2-0 Hearts
Aug 18 2008
WHAT a difference a Des makes. After a summer of turmoil and tantrums, Rangers set about reinventing themselves by more than just comfortably seeing off a confident Hearts - they passed the ball more more freely and accurately in 90 minutes than they may have done in their previous 90 games.
And in the thick of it all was a little man with long hair and a hugely valuable gift.
Pedro Mendes does not come cheap. But should this softly-spoken playmaker from Portugal continue his Rangers career in the manner in which he started then, even at 35 grand a week, Ibrox boss Walter Smith might just have found himself a bargain. In fact, Smith could not have put a price on the contribution the new boy provided on his debut.
With the mob forming at the front door even before a ball had been kicked the manager needed something a little bit special to take the heat off. And in Mendes he found what his team has been looking for ever since Smith rode in to the rescue more than 18 months ago.
With the timely arrival of this 29-year-old, suddenly Smith appears to have added the guile and craft that has been so sorely missing for so long.
The difference it made was quite startling. Just ask Kevin Thomson, who looked like a player transformed as he relished the chance to link up with Mendes in the centre of midfield.
This pair developed an almost instant understanding and together they grabbed this contest by the scruff of the neck and didn't let go until they had strangled the life out of it.
There was something refreshingly slick and stylish about the way they combined and their inventive, incisive interplay certainly seemed to lighten the mood around a club that has been groping around in darkness and despair since the end of last season.
For the first time in a long time Rangers looked bright and able to move the ball around with precision and purpose.
It was all too much for Hearts who made the trip across the M8 fuelled with a sense of belief but who came up well short, even though they were a penalty claim away from perhaps claiming a late draw.
With Mendes and Thomson pulling the strings Rangers seized control of the middle of the park right from the start and claimed a deserved lead eight minutes before the break when Kyle Lafferty capped his Ibrox debut with the opening goal.
The beanpole Northern Ireland striker looks awkward at times and also damaged ahamstring but refused to limp away and his determination to play on was rewarded when he latched on to a cutback from the impressive Madjid Bougherra to slash a low shot past Hearts keeper Jamie McDonald from 16 yards.
The goal came at a crucial time for Rangers who lost their momentum for a while after Lafferty pulled up lame. First DaMarcus Beasley was told to get stripped and then Kenny Miller appeared to be getting the nod as Lafferty still insisted he was fit enough to continue.
Eventually, after 62 minutes, Lafferty did make way for Miller but his strike was enough to turn a potentially difficult day into a surprisingly comfortable Rangers victory.
It may have been a different story had the teams headed inside at half time still level, especially as there were few signs of a breakthrough goal coming from Smith's big hitters, Kris Boyd and Andrius Velicka.
This pair have now had two SPL games to prove they can form a prolific partnership but so far the signs are not encouraging. Their movement and link-up play has been dreadfully poor and on Saturday they were snuffed out all too easily by Christophe Berra and Marius Zaliukas.
Hearts' impressive defensive double act were able to cruise through this contest, outmuscling the Rangers attackers and winning just about everything in the air.
Only once did Boyd escape them, right at the start of the second half, when he was released by a superb Mendes pass but fired straight at McDonald who could be satisfied with his performance in goal for Csaba Laszlo's side.
With Steve Banks demoted and new recruit Marian Kello on the bench, McDonald was given his big chance and did little wrong. The same couldnot be said of some others in the Hearts team who failed to step up to the mark.
Which brings us nicely to Saulius Mikoliunas, who appeared from the bench in 65 minutes and disappeared back up the tunnel eight minutes later after being booked twice by ref Stuart Dougal.
His first yellow card took just two minutes when he tumbled at the feet of Sasa Papac looking for a cheap foul. Dougal waved his appeals away by plunging into his back pocket.
But if Mikoliunas thought he had been harshly treated worse was to come when he clattered into a 50-50 challenge with Miller and saw Dougal standing over him for a second time.
He made the long walk without so much as an argument but his sunken shoulders told a sorry story.
Mikoliunas feels victimised. This was the third time he has been sent off against Rangers and it did seem rather obvious Dougal was in no mood to cut him any slack.
The referee, however, was equally tough on Thomson, who was booked for nothing more serious than taking aquick free-kick and who infuriated the referee by bumping into him shortly before half time.
It was all rather farcical and silly but it did look for a moment as if Dougal was thinking seriously about telling Thomson to take an early shower and the pair exchanged words again on their way off at the break.
Thomson must have sensed one mistimed tackle would end in him seeing red but he continued to snap into challenges and won them all cleanly.
Mikoliunas was neither as careful or as clever and so Hearts were left only 10 men for the final 17 minutes.
Even so they screamed for a penalty in the closing moments when Bougherra used an arm to charge down Andrew Driver's volley at pointblank range.
But Dougal was well placed to make the call and was having none of it.
Within minutes he did point to the spot at the other end after the lively Miller was taken out by Lee Wallace, just as he seemed poised to claim the first goal of his second stint at Rangers.
Boyd claimed responsibility and clinically smashed the ball home from 12 yards.
Another game, another goal but this phenomenal predator will need to do agreat deal more if he is to be granted with the prolonged first-team run he feels his statistics deserve.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Pedro Mendes (Rangers)
55 POSSESSION % 45
7 SHOTS ON TARGET 3
6 SHOTS OFF TARGET 2
1 CORNERS 12
14 CORNERS 12
3 OFFSIDES 0
MAN BY MAN
Allan McGregor: Only one real save to make but did it well, smothering a powerful Ksanavicius snapshot. 6
Kirk Broadfoot: Honest and willing but lacks composure in possession. 5
Madjid Bougherra: This guy looks the part. Defends clinically but uses the ball well. Set up opening goal. 7
David Weir: Still a little rusty but eased himself into the game and won everything in the air. 6
Sasa Papac: Continues to hit high standards. Solid in defence. 7
Lee McCulloch: Full of effort but struggling for confidence. 6
Pedro Mendes: Classy, composed and full of craft. Exactly what Rangers have been missing. 8
Kevin Thomson: Forged a terrific partnership with Mendes. 8
Kyle Lafferty: Jury still out. Good goal and full of running but sloppy in possession.6
Andrius Velicka: Looked cumbersome and increasingly frustrated. 4
Kris Boyd: Scored a late penalty. 5
Subs: Kenny Miller - injected energy and pace, 4. DaMarcus Beasley - looked lively and linked well, 4. Jean-Claude Darcheville - movement and touch made difference, 3
HEARTS MAN BY MAN
Jamie McDonald: Brought in from the cold and looked assured. No chance with Lafferty's opener or Boyd's penalty. 6
Jason Thomson: Nervous in the early exchanges but settled down. 6
Marius Zaliukas: Relished the physical battles with Boyd and Velicka. 7
Christophe Berra: Organised the back four and won a great deal in the air. 7
Lee Wallace: Defended well until the late penalty but didn't get forward as much as Hearts would have hoped. 5
Larry Kingston: Stuck out on right flank. Subdued and then subbed. 5
Christos Karipidis: Moved the ball well at times but overrun for long periods. 6
Michael Stewart: Full of energy as usual but couldn't stop Rangers seizing control. 6
Andrew Driver: Played in flashes. 5
Andrius Ksanavicius: Forced McGregor into a decent save but struggled to link midfield with attack. 4
Jamie Mole: Full of running and endeavour but snuffed out too easily. 5
Subs: Christian Nade - threw weight around, 2. Saulius Mikoliunas - two contributions, two yellow cards, 0. Deividas Cesnauskis - offered little, 1.
Superb passing move in 63 minutes ending with Boyd hooking a volley over.
Taken from the Daily Record
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