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<-Page <-Team Sat 17 Jan 2009 Kilmarnock 0 Hearts 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Paul Forsyth auth-> Charlie Richmond
14 of 027 Bruno Aguiar 61 ;Hristos Karipidis 80 L SPL A

Aguiar delivers sucker punch

Paul Forsyth at Rugby Park
Kilmarnock 0

Hearts 2
Aguiar 60, Karipidis 80
KILMARNOCK look about as comfortable at home as the Big Brother housemates. With seven defeats in their last eight matches at Rugby Park, maybe it is time they were evicted. In a sorry repetition of what has been the story of their season, they set about their visitors for long spells, passed up a couple of chances that would have given them a deserved lead, before succumbing in the end to a classic sucker punch. After Bruno Aguiar had delivered the telling blow with half an hour left, they never recovered.

Christos Karipidis headed a second, and Christian Nade nearly grabbed a third, all of which had poor Jim Jefferies wearily shaking his head. While his team hadn't exactly laid siege to their opponents on a stormy Ayrshire day, they deserved at least a point from an afternoon on which they took all the initiatives. "I would be more concerned if we weren't playing well," said the Kilmarnock manager, who had endured a similar experience against Aberdeen in midweek. "We were the better team by far. Hearts only came into it after they had gone two up. Up till then, they had offered nothing. We just need that killer touch, but it will come."

For Hearts, now fourth in the Premier League, the reverse is true. They were rotten, as they can often be, especially on their travels, but for the umpteenth time this season, it was a smash and grab, a triumph of the manager's cautious tactics. Aguiar's return from injury was the key to their success, which at least demonstrates an ability to deal with adversity. Csaba Laszlo was forced by injury and suspension into a number of changes, with Eggert Jonsson filling in at centre half, David Obua playing wide on the right and Jamie McDonald in goal. Not that the latter is likely to stay there long. The manager later said he was 99% sure that the signing of Janos Balogh would be completed shortly. The goalkeeper, injured yesterday, is due back at his club, Debrecen, after a six-month loan period at Tynecastle.

McDonald was busy enough here, especially during a first half in which the home side should have been ahead. They had gradually increased the pressure on Hearts' defence, without ever fashioning a clear opportunity, but when David Fernandez sprinted clear of the offside trap, a goal seemed to be the likeliest outcome. He had barely to adjust his stride in response to Craig Bryson's through pass, but his effort to curl it beyond the goalkeeper with his left instep ended in embarrassment. After the ball had shot off at the kind of angle usually produced only by a square boot, the Spaniard, anxious to demonstrate that there had been a bobble, stooped over the offending patch of turf as though it were a player who had dived.

At least he was some distance from goal when the fates conspired against him, which was more than could be said for Danny Invincibile just before the break. Garry Hay could hardly have provided better service, looping a left-foot cross round the back of the defence and into the space occupied by Kilmarnock's hirsute midfielder at the back post. Required only to meet square-on the ball that was curling towards his forehead, he somehow squirted it wide.

Kilmarnock, at least, had shown a degree of ambition. In a quite hopeless opening period for Hearts, Andy Driver had come closest with a corner, flapped at by Alan Combe. And until their belated breakthrough, they weren't much better after the interval. With the gale gathering strength, you had to wonder if there was symbolism in the black bin bag that swirled above their heads.

How galling, then, for Kilmarnock to fall behind on the hour to what was the visitors' first effort of any note. Michael Stewart, whose continued participation in the match seemed to be in doubt after a first-half tackle by Frazer Wright, collected the ball in a relatively harmless midfield position, but his surge to within range of the penalty area had his opponents on the back foot. From there, he slipped the ball to Aguiar, who steadied himself before thrashing a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner.

Stewart's part in the goal pleased Laszlo. Frustrated by the player's failure to fulfil his potential at Tynecastle, he took him aside last week for a pep talk. "Michael Stewart could make a difference to any team, but a lot of the time, he fights with himself," said the manager. "He has only one enemy, and that is Michael Stewart. He has played with Manchester United. He must use that experience. He mustn't hold back his quality."

Not for the first time this season, the setback demoralised Kilmarnock, who might have fallen further behind when Aguiar's deflected shot was saved by Combe. Despite a free kick by Mehdi Taouil that tested the goalkeeper, it wasn't long before they collapsed altogether. With 10 minutes left, a deep cross to the back post was returned across goal by Christophe Berra, who picked out Karipidis in space. The Greek defender nodded into an empty net.

By this time, it was hard to credit that a Kilmarnock side so willing in the first half could be so lost near the end. Fernandez had drifted a shot high and wide after going to collect a short corner, and Willie Gibson's powerful volley in the closing stages prompted a smart parry from McDonald, but if there was to be another goal, it was more likely to be Hearts', and it's not often you can say that. Nade, of all people, stepped neatly inside a floored defender, and smashed his shot against the goalkeeper's body, which was just as well for Jefferies' sanity.

Taken from the Scotsman

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