Derek McInnes made two changes to the side tonight in what was a very strong line up. Andrew Considine came back in the side and Joe Shaughnessy dropped to the bench. The manager was also able to include Peter Pawlett for the first time since he was injured against St Johnstone. Cammy Smith was the other player who dropped to the bench. So Aberdeen lined up with Langfield in goal, Logan was at right back, Anderson and Reynolds were in the middle with Considine at left back. Flood and Jack were the holding midfielders with McGinn on the left, Robson on the right and Pawlett playing the free role just in behind Rooney.
The game kicked off in quite a flat atmosphere. Very unusual for a game at Tynecastle.
Inside the first minute David Smith did well down the right to force a corner. The ball came over and was cleared to the edge of the area. Sam Nicholson hit a shot which appeared to be going in but the ball hit his own player. It was just as well because the shot would certainly have troubled Langfield as it was right in the corner. The Dons defence then blocked a second shot before Barry Robson showed good composure on the ball and he was able to finally clear.
On 4 minutes Pawlett made a good burst forward. It was great to see Peter fit again. He set up McGinn who came off his wing to fire in a good shot which moved all over the place. Jamie MacDonald took no chances and just pushed it away. A comfortable enough save in the end.
Aberdeen looked the better team in the opening stages but Hearts as always were competing well for everything. The first goal tonight was going to be even more crucial than normal.
On 11 minutes a great passage of play from the Dons. They passed the ball about before Ryan Jack played a brilliant ball forward inside the full back. Logan ran onto it and had time to deliver his cross but he over hit it and Rooney and Robson were unable to get a touch.
Aberdeen kept up the pressure and the home side were struggling to cope. Crisp passing and good movement off the ball was causing Hearts problems. On 14 minutes another good passing move saw a great reverse ball from Robson to McGinn. Niall also had plenty of time for his cross but he flashed it across the face of goal and again no one could get a touch.
After a great Dons spell when they were flowing nicely, the play then became very fragmented. That certainly suited Hearts.
A quick free kick on 21 minutes from the Dons set Pawlett on his way. He floated over a very good ball which was headed behind for the Dons first corner. Robson played it to the back post area but it was slightly over hit and although Reynolds won two headers he could do nothing with the ball as there was no pace on it. On 25 minutes Ryan Jack became the first player to be booked. He was very unlucky considering this was his first foul and considering some of the tackles from the home side and Paterson in particular.
After a lull in play back came Aberdeen. McGinn did well on the half hour mark down the right. Despite having two men round about him, he managed to beat them both and get a cross in but he picked out a Maroon jersey in the box. The Dons kept the pressure on and Ryan Jack hit a shot which was diverted by Pawlett just wide. If it had been on target the keeper would have had no chance as he was rooted to the spot. Then an even better chance as a simple pass forward allowed Rooney to get in behind the defence. He stuck out a foot but MacDonald rushing off his line managed to get a touch on the ball. A good save actually.Then another chance. A ball over the top was knocked down by Rooney to Pawlett. Just as he was away to shoot from about 10 yards out, Danny Wilson managed to get back and make a brilliant tackle. From the resulting corner Robson twice had space in the box but was unable to do anything with it. Credit to Hearts who were defending for their lives.
On 36 minutes Rooney cleverly drew a foul from Wilson which led to a booking and a free kick in a good area. McGinn's first effort hit the wall and but his second effort whistled just past the post. MacDonald was t full stretch and would not have got it if the ball was on target. During a rare Hearts attack David Smith then took free kick which Stevenson glanced just past the post. A really good chance. Similar to the goal conceded against Ross County, no one picked Stevenson and he really should have scored.
Just before the interval Hearts had the ball in the net when McCallum bundled the ball and Jamie Langfield into the net when the keeper had come to claim a high ball. A poor tackle, which was almost comedy like because it was so bad, correctly earned him a yellow card.
Quite how Aberdeen went in at the break on level terms was a mystery. They really had dominated the first forty five minutes.
Aberdeen started the second half strongly and enjoyed plenty of possession but again no real end product. Someone needed to be braver on the ball in the final third. They also needed to get some shots away, Jamie MacDonald should have had more to do. There was not enough pace in the attacks but Hearts were to their credit were still closing down absolutely everything.
On 50 minutes the home side enjoyed a good spell which ended in Stevenson getting a shot away which went just wide. The referee actually gave a corner which amazed everyone but he then blew up for a foul on Langfield. Two minutes later Robson won the Dons a corner which McGinn took but again Hearts defended their lines well.
As the hour mark approached Hearts had come back into the game. The home crowd for the first time all night were also getting into the game and that was lifting the Hearts players. Robson then ran off the pitch for a few minutes. When he came back on the field, with his first touch he played it wide to Considine but again the final ball was lacking. On 62 minutes Ryan Jack made a great run into the box which committed players. Ryan kept hold of the ball and made it all the way to the six yard box. It looked like Rooney would score as Aberdeen played queued up but he was unable to hook his shot past MacDonald. Credit to the Hearts keeper, he did very well to narrow the angle.
Back came Hearts though and Callum Paterson hit a fine shot which Langfield had to deal with, the keeper pushed it away to safety. Then Flood did well to nip in and win the ball on the edge of the area. He floated over an enticing ball and Rooney tried an overhead kick but he did not get good enough contact on it.
On 70 minutes Aberdeen made their first change. Cammy Smith replaced Barry Robson. Then two minutes Danny Wilson hauled back Rooney just outside the area. He received a second yellow card, and was therefore sent off. The ref had no absolutely no choice.
Flood took the free kick, he drove it past the wall and past MacDonald. Goal! It was a well stuck shot but the Hearts keeper should have done better.Practically the first shot at goal had led to a goal.
Would that finally break Hearts?
The answer was no. They came straight back at the Dons. Aberdeen did not deal with a ball into the box and Robinson got a powerful shot away which thankfully hit Considine and went over. Great defending. Credit to the Hearts players though who were still giving everything.
On 77 minutes Peter Pawlett was replaced by Scott Vernon. Minutes earlier he had been booked for kicking the ball away.On 80 minutes Cammy Smith played a great ball through ball to Niall who had run into space but he could not take the ball with him, otherwise he was in. He should have done better. Then a minute later Rooney should have scored when he got on the end of McGinn free kick, he made a great run to the front post and he had a free header but got it all wrong. He should have scored.
A minute after Mark Reynolds almost handed Hearts a goal when his poor back pass went straight to Stevenson but the Hearts player pulled his shot wide with just Langfield to beat. He should also have scored. The Dons looked nervous and were lacking composure. Then with five minutes to go on the break the Dons messed up another great chance. Flood won the initial ball in midfield. As they moved forward they have a four on one. They worked the ball well to the man in space and it looked almost certain that Willo would grab his second goal of the night but instead he failed to control the pass and the chance was lost. He probably had to many options in the end.
The Dons were made to pay for all those misses.
A minute later Shay Logan was penalised for foul on Paterson in the box and it was a penalty. Logan was devastated. It looked a soft penalty but at the same time Logan did not need to make the tackle. It is also questionable how good a view Kevin Clancy got of the incident. Jamie Hamill took the responsibility and sent the keeper the wrong way. Hammill was then involved in a heated exchange with first Cammy Smith and then Ryan Jack.
The game then became an incredible spectacle as both teams flooded players forward in search of winner.
With a minute to go the ball fell kindly for McGinn but he blasted over. Then Smith set up McGinn with a great chest down but he fired wide. It actually looked as though MacDonald tipped it past but the ref gave a goal kick. The ten men of Hearts were desperate for the win and threw everyone forward. The Dons had to withstand a few aerial onslaughts during the three minutes of injury time but they held out.
The Dons really should not have drawn this game. Hearts deserve a lot of credit for their battling qualities but Aberdeen should have made their superior footballing quality tell.