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Superb Joe Lewis saves denied Hearts a win in their first league game at their temporary Murrayfield home – and first under Craig Levein as manager.
Aberdeen needed a win to return to the top of the Scottish Premiership and the point leaves them behind holders Celtic on goal difference.
The Dons had more possession before the break but had Lewis to thank as the keeper denied Isma and Jamie Walker.
Hearts dominated after the break and Isma also fired against the crossbar.
So Levein’s second spell as Hearts team boss begins with a draw but a promising performance against last season’s runners-up.
Derek McInnes’ Dons lose their 100% league record this season but extend their run of games without a defeat against Hearts to five.
This was a fine spectacle in the capital, a big crowd in the Murrayfield sunshine and a game that was intriguing all the way through.
We wondered what impact Levein would have on a team whose confidence long since disappeared through a footballing trapdoor – and we didn’t have to wait long for clues.
Hearts were well-organised, physically robust and, as the game went on, increasingly dangerous in attack. The soft touch of the Ian Cathro months was gone.
This was a team set up to compete and create rather than capitulate. They were overwhelmingly the better team but just couldn’t find that precious goal.
In the opening minutes, it’s true, Aberdeen dominated possession. McInnes went with Adam Rooney and Stevie May along with Scott Wright and Ryan Christie, an impressive display of firepower. It was Christie who stood out early on, his intelligence and trickery stretching Hearts and causing them problems.
The thing about Hearts, though, is that they didn’t buckle. They hustled and harried and crowded the Dons out of it and, midway through the half, they started to come into it themselves.
From that point on, they stayed on the front foot. Lewis had to be in resolute form to keep them out.
Hearts asked all sorts of questions of him. A Jamie Walker free-kick was saved by Lewis low to his left. A minute later, it was Isma who forced the goalkeeper into action with another fine save.
Christie had an attempt of his own soon after, pulling a shot across new signing Jon McLaughlin’s goal. The debutant, a composed presence, was preferred to Jack Hamilton on the day.
Lewis was soon the man again, brilliantly tipping away Walker’s curling shot after Hearts countered following a Kenny McLean error. Next, it was Isma who cut his way through, but indecision saw the chance come and go.
The pace of it carried on at a fair old rate. Shay Logan had a close-range shot booted away by McLaughlin just before the break and, just after, Christophe Berra’s volley was beaten clear by Lewis.
The goalkeeper’s piece-de-resistance came 10 minutes into the second half when Goncalves chested down to the incoming Ross Callachan, who thumped his close-range shot at goal only for Lewis to knock it away. It was a sensational save.
Aberdeen were hanging on – and few would have fancied their chances of doing it successfully. Hearts were full of running. They had an accuracy and effervescence in their play that we haven’t seen from them in a long time.
All they were missing was a goal. The fact that they still didn’t have one became all the more freakish after Goncalves hit the crossbar just after the hour.
The breakthrough never came even when Don Cowie popped up in the six-yard box with only Lewis to beat. He couldn’t do it.
McInnes will have given thanks for that. His team were badly out of sorts.
For Levein, frustration and satisfaction in one curious bundle on his first day in a new Hearts era.
London News & Search