Hearts stage dramatic comeback to share spoils with Rangers

Rangers let slip a commanding two-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Hearts in the final cinch Premiership game of the season at Tynecastle.

Jambos skipper Lawrence Shankland clipped in his 31st goal of the season for the third-placed home side in the 33rd minute of the dead rubber before Gers winger Ross McCausland levelled in the 52nd minute, with midfielder Todd Cantwell finishing in a similar style in the 69th minute.

It looked like three points for Philippe Clement’s side when substitute Fabio Silva drilled in a third with 11 minutes remaining but Jambos substitute Dexter Lembikisa’s volley in the 82nd minute reduced the deficit.

Kyosuke Tagawa, another Gorgie replacement, dramatically levelled in the last of five added minutes, leaving the Light Blues’ Belgian boss with more questions than answers ahead of next week’s Scottish Gas Scottish Cup final against three-in-row league champions Celtic at Hampden Park.

Clement named a strong side – he made changes in the second half with an eye on next week’s game with Abdallah Sima and Dujon Sterling getting minutes – but notably 21-year-old left-back Robbie Fraser made his first start.

Hearts boss Steven Naismith made seven changes with only Frankie Kent, Kye Rowles, Alex Cochrane and Cammy Devlin keeping their places.

It was a gentle enough start to the afternoon as Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark saved long-distance efforts from Mohamed Diomande and Cyriel Dessers and in between Jambos attacker Yutardo Oda fired wide from 25 yards.

In the 13th minute there was a VAR check for a possible Rangers penalty when Kent appeared to pull Dessers’ jersey inside the box but play continued.

Dessers should have scored seven minutes later when McCausland robbed Rowles and squared for an easy chance but his tentative shot was gladly held by Clark.

Shankland had come close from a corner minutes before he got his goal after Cantwell had conceded possession, running on to a defence-splitting pass from Oda and confidently chipping over Gers keeper Jack Butland.

Kenneth Vargas broke clear in another Jambos but could only hit the outside of a post with the ball going behind and at the other end Dessers knocked the ball over the bar from close range but the offside flag was up.

The start to the second half was rough but McCausland’s strike was silky smooth, the Northern Ireland international skipping inside Devlin and curling a shot from 25 yards low past Clark and into the net off a post.

Shankland did not control the ball when he could have raced clear and in another perplexing display by Dessers, he headed a Scott Wright cross over the bar and then drove wide from 16 yards when he only had Clark to beat.

Rangers pressed for a second and Clark made a good save from a shot from Silva with Cantwell’s effort from the loose ball blocked by a maroon jersey.

But there was no stopping the former Norwich player when he took a Dessers pass on the edge of the box, guiding the ball past Clark and into the corner of the net before taking the acclaim of the small band of travelling supporters.

The game opened up in the latter stages.

Vargas headed wide from 10 yards but when McCausland set up Silva moments later at the other end, he quickly drove low past the helpless Clark.

Back came Hearts and Lembikisa despatched a Vargas cross with some conviction to make the final minutes more exciting.

Gers substitute Kieran Dowell smacked a post with a drive but, in the final action of the game, Tagawa got on to a flick from Kent to fire past Butland to send the home fans away happy.

What the managers said…

Hearts boss Steven Naismith:

“The next three weeks in the training camp is probably the biggest part. Both [Zander Clark and Craig Gordon] have done all they can to show the [Scotland] manager they are capable and deserve a place in the [Euro 2024] squad. We have two brilliant goalkeepers.

“He can’t be in better form going into it. He answered a lot of questions in the last internationals.

“But the next three weeks are important when the manager sets eyes on all the players on the training pitch each day.

“But Shanks is in brilliant form, full of confidence.

“At the start of the season the question was does he deserve to be in the squad. The question now is does he deserve to start. That’s credit to him for getting himself into that position.”

Rangers boss Philippe Clement:

“In one game, everything is possible. And in the three games I’ve had against them we got a draw and lost the other two 2-1 at Celtic Park when we played a big part of those games with 10 men.

“Every time it was really tight. I know my players will go full in this last game to give the fans something special. That’s why I believe.”

“We will see, it was positive that Abda [Abdallah Sima] and Ridvan [Yilmaz] could take some minutes today. We will see if Leon Balogun can be fit again. We are going to see in the week so in that way it is difficult for me to plan the starting XI and what players are going to make it.

“We need to assess with the medical and performance staff how many players are available and for how many minutes. A player could be fit on Friday and play some minutes and I need to wait until that moment.

“I don’t like this situation but it’s been that way for a few weeks.”

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