Manager Derek McInnes made three changes to the side that lost to Celtic. Weaver, Robertson came in to the side and there was a first start of the season for striker Scott Vernon. The Dons lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Shaughnessy was at right back with Hector and Reynolds in central defence and Clark Robertson at left back. In midfield were Flood and Jack with Hayes and Pawlett wide. McGinn played just off Vernon to start with, although McGinn and Pawlett seemed to have been given freedom to go wherever they wanted.
The Dons started brightly. A nice move set Hayes free down the left. He got to the byline and cut the ball back but failed to pick out a white shirt. As it turned out that was to be the story of the afternoon from an attacking point of view. Then a half chance for Scott Vernon but the ball seemed to get tangled under his feet and he was unable to get any power in his shot. Encouraging though how easily he was able to work an opening.
On 3 minutes Hearts forced the first corner of the game but the ball sailed over the heads of everyone and King was unable to get the ball back into the danger area. Hearts were playing with a physical presence and the game was being played at 100 miles an hour. The home side were well up for this and put the Dons under a bit of pressure after 8 minutes. They forced their second corner and the ball was headed behind for a third. McGowan had a free header but thankfully put his effort just past the post.
Then Aberdeen won a free kick at the other end. The ball was played in by Hayes and he picked out Mark Reynolds at the back post area. It was similar to the free kick against Motherwell but this time Reynolds was unable to hit the target- although it did appear the ball took a deflection.
On 11 minutes Aberdeen won their first corner of the game but were unable to create anything from it. The ball was spending a lot of time in the air which seemed to suit the home side. After 16 minutes Vernon was again put through with a simple forward pass. His first touch took it away from the defender but away from goal. He laid the ball back to Pawlett but his shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Then on 17 minutes against the run of play Hearts took the lead. On the break, Walker ran with the ball from inside his own half. He ran at Shaughnessy, who backed off. He then cut inside before hitting an early low shot which beat Weaver, the keeper had no chance. It was a very good goal but Derek McInnes looked furious and understandably so. Walker should not have been allowed to run so far.A few minutes later Hearts created a chance down the other wing. The ball was cut back to Hamill but his effort was dragged wide.
But then on 20 minutes, a great chance for Aberdeen to get back on level terms. A simple long ball saw Vernon through on goal in a central area. The striker was being held all the way but he still managed to get a shot away and the ball went agonisingly past the post. Had he gone down it would have been an interesting decision for referee Alan Muir. Unlike Samaras last week Vernon stayed on his feet.
The game was still being played at 100 miles an hour and Aberdeen were still struggling to get their passing game going. No players were getting any time on the ball. On the half hour mark Aberdeen won a corner which they worked well. The ball came over from McGinn and Robertson had an opportunity with a header but was unable to find the target. Then a good spell from Aberdeen as Pawlett got himself in some good positions between the Hearts midfield and defence. Niall McGinn was now playing more on the left wing. Pawlett first of all cut the ball back after a good run down the left but there was no one there. Seconds later Hayes crossed the ball for Pawlett but the winger did not get enough on it when he had a good look at the goal. McGinn then swung a great cross in for Hayes but unfortunately the winger was just not tall enough to get a head on it.
By now both teams were able to get the ball down on the deck and started to play some better football. On 38 minutes Hayes once again got in behind Hearts back four and flashed the ball across the face of goal but no one could get on the end of it. It was encouraging that Aberdeen were still creating chances but the final ball was letting them down. Scott Vernon was winning every ball in the air but too often there were not enough players round about him.
On 40 minutes another great opening for the visitors. McGinn played in Pawlett who flashed the ball across the face of goal again, but once again there were no takers. From the resulting corner Clark Robertson had another chance with a header but the ball went over.
Quite how the Dons went in at half time 1-0 down was a mystery.
The Aberdeen players emerged for the second half a good two or three minutes early. On 53 minutes the first change of the afternoon. Scott Vernon was replaced by Calvin Zola. Scott was maybe lacking a little bit of match sharpness but overall had a good game. He was unlucky not to get himself on the score sheet. The game was becoming quite tense as the next goal was going to be crucial. On 55 minutes a good save by Weaver with his legs from Walker's shot. It was a good save as the ball came through a ruck of players and the big Englishman would not have seen much of it. Then at the other end Zola with his first touch very nearly scored. Hayes made a great run leaving Robinson for dead. His cross was met by Zola but his glancing header went inches past. On 61 minutes Brad McKay was replaced after taking a knock and Jordan McGhee came on. Clark Robertson was then booked for a foul on Billy King.
At this stage the game was drifting away from the Dons as they were not doing enough to get back into the match.
But then on 66 minutes from nothing and another simple ball forward, Zola got the wrong side of his marker. As he was about to shoot he was hauled down by McHattie. Penalty! The defender made the tackle from behind but it was unclear if he got anything on the ball. As the referee had awarded the spot kick he had no choice but to send off the Hearts player. Niall McGinn took the penalty and confidently found the corner of the net. MacDonald guessed the right way but could not get anywhere near it. McGinn though was then booked celebrating in front of the Hearts fans. As Hearts fans were in three of the stands around the ground, how could he celebrate his goal without going in front of them?
With Hearts down to ten men and with the game stretched Aberdeen made their second change. On 73 minutes Wylde replaced Robertson. Jonny Hayes went to left back and Wylde played left midfield. A minute later a moment of controversy as Pawlett was booked for diving. It was a shocking decision as it looked a clear penalty. Peter's pace had clearly got him to the ball first. You almost feel what has gone on before with Peter went against him on this occasion. Also referee Muir maybe lacked the conviction to give a second penalty against the home side.
Hearts- even with their ten men- were still playing some good football and creating chances. Hamill put a shot just the post and Paterson was not far away from getting on the end of a dangerous cross. Warning signs for Aberdeen.
On 82 minutes the Dons made their final change with Pawlett coming off and Magennis was put on. With his first touch he looked to have created a scoring chance but credit to McGowan who matched the strikers pace and was able to put a blocking tackle in. On 84 minutes Aberdeen should have taken the lead. Wylde showed fantastic pace down the left and had a cross to match. Niall McGinn rose for the header but he was unable to hit the target from about seven yards although he was at a tight angle.
They were made to pay for that and their other misses.
On 87 minutes Hearts scored the winner. From a free kick the ball was played high into the area. The ball was hit extremely high and Weaver came a long way for it and might have been impeded. Everyone missed it and substitute Jordan McGhee was able to head the ball into the empty net. There was a clash on the touchline as McInnes and Hearts assistant Billy Brown were sent to the stand. McInnes was understandably upset at the reaction of the Hearts bench after the Hearts goal.
Aberdeen threw everything at Hearts in the final stages. Magennis had a header which was touched over by MacDonald and then the Dons should have had another penalty when Zola was again hauled to the ground but nothing was given. It looked another poor decision from Muir. Despite five minutes of injury time somehow Hearts held out and somehow the Dons had lost a game they really should have got something from. They created enough chances to win two or three games and should have had a further two penalties.