London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 16 Aug 2008 Rangers 2 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Telegraph ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Roddy Forsyth auth-> Stuart Dougal
Mikoliunas Saulius [K Lafferty 37] ;[K Boyd pen 91]
23 of 023 ----- L SPL A

Pedro Mendes shows his class as Rangers break down Hearts

Rangers (1) 2 Hearts (0) 0

By Roddy Forsyth

With a new £3 million signing, Pedro Mendes, making an impressive debut in midfield, Rangers secured a second successive league victory ahead of their hazardous away meetings with Aberdeen and Celtic, with a first-half strike from Kyle Lafferty – his first competitive goal for the club – and a late penalty from Kris Boyd.

Hearts' performance, obdurate but wanting guile in the danger areas, was disfigured by the dismissal of the delinquent Saulius Mikoliunas, who lasted all of seven minutes as a second-half substitute. His first booking was for simulation, in which regard Mikoliunas is a repeat offender, having dived to win Lithuania a penalty in a Euro 2008 qualifier against Scotland last year.

On this occasion he went past Sasa Papac with his first touch of the ball, but as the Rangers player challenged, Mikoliunas went to ground in all too obvious fashion. Seemingly bent on his own elimination from the proceedings, he toppled Kenny Miller with a rash challenge which brought the inevitable dismissal.

Matters might well have been more productive for Hearts had Mikoliunas not been so culpable, because soon after his colleague's departure Marius Zaliukas stung Allan McGregor with a drive that was only gathered at the second attempt.

There had been threats of a demonstration by Rangers supporters disenchanted by the team's poor start to the season – and the departure of Carlos Cuellar to Aston Villa – but, in the event, the mutinous tendency could muster nothing more threatening than a banner strung along the lower tier of the Edmiston Stand, which proclaimed: "We deserve better."

Disaffection might have been more widespread had Laryea Kingston not seen a powerful shot blocked by David Weir – who had returned from suspension – in the first few seconds of the contest.

The half-hour mark brought a scare for Rangers when Lafferty went down in clear distress from what looked like a hamstring strain and the Northern Ireland international was led to the side, limping heavily. Miller, a target for the Ibrox boo-boys since his unwelcome summer arrival, was stripped and ready to come on, but Lafferty then evidently underwent a remarkable recovery because he insisted on returning to the field.

This proved to be a major stroke of good fortune for Rangers as Lafferty put them ahead seven minutes later. Supply came from the unlikely figure of Madjid Bougherra, who used his strength to force an opening on the left of the Hearts box before delivering a cutback towards Lafferty. The summer signing from Burnley placed his shot precisely past Jamie McDonald.

At 1-0, the outcome was never certain for Rangers, a fact emphasised by the double save McGregor was forced to make immediately after the interval, first from Andy Driver and then from Andrius Ksanavicius. The decisive action came at the other end, however, when Lee Wallace toppled Miller in the final minute for a clear penalty which was converted with gusto by Boyd.

Mendes' performance expanded Rangers' repertoire in midfield, to Walter Smith's satisfaction. "We have needed more of a presence in midfield. I think we relied too much on Barry Ferguson in that department. Mendes can take the ball and use it, as you saw today," said the Rangers manager.

As for the abrupt departure of Cuellar, Smith reiterated Rangers' helplessness in the matter. "I wouldn't say I was surprised that he went because he had an outstanding season last time out and getting to the Uefa Cup final brought him to the notice of many people. He had a get-out clause in his contract, which is fairly common in Spain, although as far as I know we don't have any other players with that.

"We wouldn't have got the player if it hadn't been for that clause. We were disappointed that he went, but not surprised. We knew it could happen but hoped it wouldn't be the case. We would have liked him to stay for another year.

"I would go down that road again if it gave us a good player. August is a difficult month to sign players because selling clubs wait as long as possible in the hope that the price rises. That's why there's a rush at the last moment."

Taken from

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