Dons Fail To Get First Win
In a disappointing match at Pittodrie Aberdeen and Hearts shared the spoils, but neither team looks to have started the season in style. The Dons went ahead through Barry Nicholson in the 19th minute after good work from Jamie Smith. Aberdeen then looked in control until they conceded a goal in first half injury time when Michael Stewart was given too much space and curled a great effort into the top corner. Hearts looked the likelier to score after the break and Jimmy Calderwood must be concerned about the opening two performances with Celtic due in the Granite City next week.
Hearts kicked off but Aberdeen threatened first when Nicholson tested Banks from 20 yards but the shot was fired comfortably into the keeper’s midriff. Hearts won the first corner in the 4th minute when the Dons defence were slow to react and Ivaskevicius played the ball off of Hart. The set play came to nothing as Hearts were penalised for pushing but three minutes later Nicholson’s quick thinking almost released Lovell, but the striker was well policed by Berra. Ivaskevicius was forced to go off in the 10th minute for a blood injury but Hearts did well to retain possession while he received treatment.
The visitors were enjoying the majority of the possession in the early stages but their overly physical approach was punished regularly. Despite the early pressure it was Aberdeen who went ahead in the 19th minute. Jamie Smith did well on the right as he first nutmegged Wallace then took advantage of some indecision by Jonsson on the bye line and cut the ball back to Nicholson 12 yards out. The midfielder’s first shot was blocked by Zaliukas but the ex-Pars man was first to react and he fired the ball past Banks.
Aberdeen appeared to take confidence from the goal and two minutes later Smith fired wide from 25 yards out before a couple of Jamie Smith corners caused mayhem in the Hearts defence but they eventually survived the scare. Referee Brines and his assistants then missed an obvious foul when Lovell was clearly pulled back by Zaliukis on the half hour mark. Zaliukis was riding his luck a few minutes later when he took a kick at Clark inside but once again none of the officials saw the incident. Clear-cut chances were few and far between at this stage as both defences dominated the play.
Soutar was called into action in the 36th minute when he was forced to punch a Driver cross clear of his area and as Aberdeen broke Neilson was booked for upending Chris Clark. Four minutes later Clark went on a mazy and should really have went for goal after cutting inside. Instead he turned back and failed to find Lovell with a dinked pass. Two minutes from the break Berra didn’t deal with a Lovell flick properly but Clark was unable to find the target and a minute later Jamie Smith went close when he drilled a 20-yard effort inches wide.
Against the run of play Hearts grabbed a sensational equaliser in injury time. The Dons defence had failed to close down Michael Stewart on the edge of the box and the midfielder hit a perfect strike into the top corner for his first Hearts goal. Stewart had scored a sensational strike for Hibs against the Dons last season and once again he found the net against the reds.
Foster replaced Mair at the interval, but there were few chances created in the opening five minutes of the second half before Hearts were awarded a ridiculously soft free kick 3o yards from goal. Fortunately the effort was poor and the wall did its job. Velicka went close in the 56th minute when Ivaskevicius was allowed to waltz down the left and his cross was steered over the bar by Velicka at the far post. At the other end Clark forced himself forward and won a corner. Unfortunately the delivery was too heavy from Smith and the chance was wasted.
Hearts had clearly taken control of the game so Calderwood made a change in the 62nd minute with Maguire replacing Lovell. A Dons corner two minutes later found Clark on the edge of the box but his shot was screwed wide of the target. At the other end Diamond did well to block Velicka on the edge of the box then Mackie collected his second yellow card of the season when he went in late on Zaliukis. Maguire was quick to get involved as he latched on to a quick free kick on the right but fired the ball well over from a tight angle. In the 70th minute Foster went on a great run on the left and found Jamie Smith in the centre. The midfielder tried to curl the ball beyond Banks but the keeper did well to turn it round the post.
Hearts threatened again in the 75th minute when a Velicka shot was deflected for a corner and the subsequent delivery eluded Soutar and just slipped past the far post. There was confusion three minutes later when Maguire looked to be heading into the box when Wallace pulled him back. The Hearts defender was booked but on the linesman’s word the free kick was awarded to Hearts. Craig Brewster then replaced Chris Clark as the Dons looked to go for the winner. It was Hearts that looked the likelier to score but in the 85th minute Brewster went close after fine play from Maguire. Unfortunately he couldn’t get power behind his shot and Banks gathered easily. Despite three minutes of injury time neither side could break the deadlock.