Aberdeen all but sure of second spot after win at Hearts

Anthony O'Connor scored the vital winner for Derek McInnes' side

Anthony O’Connor scored the vital winner for Derek McInnes’ side

Aberdeen all but secured second spot in the Premiership with victory over 10-man Hearts at Tynecastle.

The Dons led through Adam Rooney after keeper Jack Hamilton parried Peter Pawlett’s effort into his path.

Esmael Goncalves levelled after the break before Anthony O’Connor replied and Hearts’ Jamie Walker was sent off.

The Dons are nine points and 23 goals better off than third-placed Rangers with three games to play, meaning they are virtually uncatchable.

Fifth-placed Hearts, meanwhile, remain six points behind St Johnstone in the battle for a top-four finish and European football.

Undefeated in their three previous meeting with Hearts this season, Aberdeen started with plenty of confidence and Andrew Considine should have done better than nod wide from eight yards after three minutes following excellent set-up work from Jonny Hayes.

Adam Rooney makes it 1-0<!–

Rooney reacted first to prod the ball beyond Hamilton and make it 1-0

Dons winger Niall McGinn was causing the home defence problems with his pace and after bursting clear of Krystian Nowak he tried his luck on goal. However, Hamilton reacted quickly to palm the ball away for a corner.

The Hearts keeper could not repeat that feat after 21 minutes and it cost his side a goal.

Pawlett won possession in midfield, drove forward and unleashed a fine drive that Hamilton parried straight into the path of Rooney, who produced a cool finish.

Walker was having one of his quieter afternoons for Hearts but when he tumbled to the ground in the box after a challenge by Ash Taylor there were claims for a penalty. Referee Willie Collum was unmoved.

Pawlett went off at the break with O’Connor coming on, while Hearts boss Ian Cathro sent on Liam Smith for Andraz Struna.

Isma Goncalves scores for Hearts<!–

Goncalves beat the Dons defence in the air to make it 1-1

Youngster Smith provided the delivery for Hearts’ equaliser just after the hour, with Goncalves sneaking in between defenders Taylor and Shay Logan to head the ball beyond Joe Lewis.

The home fans’ joy lasted all of three minutes.

Hayes floated a free-kick high into the area and O’Connor rose brilliantly to nod the ball back across Hamilton and into the net.

McGinn had a chance for a third when slack play by the home defence allowed the winger a clean sight of goal, but he was unable to keep his effort down.

Bjorn Johnsen was introduced for Hearts with Don Cowie making way, a decision that brought a huge round of boos from the Tynecastle faithful.

Rooney then fired another chance wide before referee Collum sent Walker off for a second yellow card.

Aberdeen are now almost certain to finish second in the table for the third year in a row and it is no more than Derek McInnes and his charges deserve.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes<!–

Dons boss Derek McInnes was delighted to make second spot a near certainty

At times lethal in attack and so often solid at the back, the Dons look to have passed the test that came with Rangers’ promotion to the Premiership in the summer with a bit to spare.

With the Scottish Cup final ahead against Celtic, the challenge facing the Pittodrie men is to ensure they do not finish the season as runners-up in all three domestic competitions.

Live Text

Match ends, Heart of Midlothian 1, Aberdeen 2.

Second Half ends, Heart of Midlothian 1, Aberdeen 2.

Second yellow card to Jamie Walker (Heart of Midlothian) for a bad foul.

Foul by Jamie Walker (Heart of Midlothian).

Niall McGinn (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Moha (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen).

Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Liam Smith (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen).

Attempt blocked. Bjorn Johnsen (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Substitution, Aberdeen. Jayden Stockley replaces Adam Rooney.

Attempt missed. Adam Rooney (Aberdeen) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.

Attempt missed. Anthony O’Connor (Aberdeen) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Foul by Jamie Walker (Heart of Midlothian).

Andrew Considine (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Arnaud Sutchuin-Djoum (Heart of Midlothian).

Kenny McLean (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Mark Reynolds.

Attempt blocked. Bjorn Johnsen (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.

Alexandros Tziolis (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Anthony O’Connor (Aberdeen).

Attempt missed. Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

Foul by Esmael Gonçalves (Heart of Midlothian).

Ash Taylor (Aberdeen) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Bjorn Johnsen replaces Don Cowie.

Attempt missed. Niall McGinn (Aberdeen) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.

Prince Buaben (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Adam Rooney (Aberdeen).

Goal! Heart of Midlothian 1, Aberdeen 2. Anthony O’Connor (Aberdeen) header from the centre of the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Jonny Hayes with a cross.

Foul by Liam Smith (Heart of Midlothian).

Niall McGinn (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Esmael Gonçalves (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Ash Taylor (Aberdeen).

Goal! Heart of Midlothian 1, Aberdeen 1. Esmael Gonçalves (Heart of Midlothian) header from very close range to the top right corner. Assisted by Liam Smith.

Foul by Arnaud Sutchuin-Djoum (Heart of Midlothian).

Anthony O’Connor (Aberdeen) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Moha replaces Lennard Sowah.

Attempt missed. Alexandros Tziolis (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.

Prince Buaben (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

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