Gerrard ‘shocked’ as Hearts strike blow to Rangers’ title challenge

Glasgow (AFP) – Steven Gerrard admitted he was shocked by how poor his Rangers side were as they suffered a 2-1 defeat at bottom-of-the-table Hearts in his 100th game in charge.

Gerrard’s men had not lost in the Scottish Premiership since early September and looked to have ended some stiff first half resistence from the Jambos when Ryan Kent opened the scoring two minutes into the second half.

However, Hearts secured their first win in seven league games under Daniel Stendel to claim a huge three points in their battle to avoid relegation.

Steven Naismith levelled just before the hour mark against his former club before debutant Liam Boyce scored the winner seven minutes from time.

«It’s always frustrating when you lose a game, but I’m a little bit shocked because I didn’t see that coming,» Gerrard told Sky Sports.

«When you don’t recognise your players it’s a little bit of a shock.»

Defeat leaves Rangers still five points adrift of Celtic at the top of the table, but now with just one game in hand.

At the other end of the table, Hearts move to within one point of second-bottom Hamilton.

«We came back with a really good mentality,» said Stendel. «I think we deserved the points. It’s a great day for us.»

Rangers were without suspended top scorer Alfredo Morelos after he was sent-off in a 2-1 win at Celtic in late December.

A first victory at Celtic Park in nine years had swung the momentum of the title race in Rangers’ favour, but Gerrard was furious at his side’s lack of fight to throw away that advantage without the Colombian.

«Hearts deserved their win. They’ve rushed us off the pitch, they’ve dominated us in the ugly side of the game,» added Gerrard, whose side had not previously lost away from home in the league this season.

«Our away form has been good because we’ve been really organised, competed well and won second balls. Today there was nothing of that on either side of the game from our point of view.»

Earlier, Aberdeen were booed off by their travelling support after a 0-0 draw at St Mirren left Derek McInnes’s men still four points adrift of third-placed Motherwell.