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Hearts move up to second in the Premiership table with comfortable victory

Rangers v Heart of Midlothian – Betfred Cup – Semi Final – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Hearts climbed above Edinburgh rivals Hibernian into second in the cinch Premiership table with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Livingston.

The Gorgie outfit dominated throughout and went in at the break in front courtesy of a Michael Smith strike and a Liam Boyce penalty.

Livingston improved slightly after the interval but Robbie Neilson’s side added a third through Alex Cochrane to ensure they remain only a point behind leaders Rangers at the summit.

The hosts began the game without John Souttar after the defender picked up a knock in training. That meant Taylor Moore kept his place in the side, despite the return of Smith.

Livingston manager Davie Martindale opted for an attacking line-up after naming both Andrew Shinnie and Odin Bailey in attack in a 4-4-2 formation.

As expected Hearts saw plenty of the ball during the early exchanges but came up against a well-drilled Livingston defensive wall that was difficult to penetrate.

The home side had a chance to test Max Stryjek in the 24th minute when Barrie McKay earned a free-kick just outside the box but Stephen Kingsley – who notched a stunning set-piece in last weekend’s draw at Ross County – hit the wall with his effort.

But Hearts stormed ahead a minute later when Smith finished off a flowing move. McKay spun away from Adam Lewis and crossed for Cochrane, who laid a first-time pass back to the defender.

Smith then curled a first-time left-footed drive high into the corner of the net from 12 yards.

Hearts had their tails up and went searching for a second. It arrived in the 33rd minute from Boyce from the penalty spot.

Beni Baningime was clipped by Ben Williamson inside the area and Northern Ireland forward Boyce made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Stryjek the wrong way.

Stryjek at least made a morale-boosting save before the half was out, palming a fizzed half-volley from Smith over his bar.

Livingston brought on Stephane Omeonga and Jackson Longridge at half-time but it was Hearts that continued to press.

And after Stryjek pulled off an excellent save to keep out a Kingsley free-kick, Cochrane made it three in the 65th minute.

McKay fired a low cross straight across the box and the on-loan Brighton man was left with a simple tap-in at the back post.