Rangers 2-2 Hearts: Kuol scores stoppage time equaliser for Hearts

Rangers 2-2 Hearts: Substitute Garang Kuol scores stoppage time equaliser with his first goal for Hearts to secure point despite Fashion Sakala’s effort

  • Garang Kuol scored a stoppage time equaliser as Hearts drew with Rangers
  • Lawrence Shankland put Hearts in the lead in the first minute of the game
  • Todd Cantwell equalised for Rangers before Fashion Sakala found the net 

A guard of honour was formed by their team-mates. Each walked through it before taking the acclaim of the crowd as David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ echoed through the PA system.

For the five soon-to-be out of contract Rangers players, this was their last experience of Ibrox. At least in these colours.

A renewal is taking place. And some familiar faces are saying goodbye. Come the final whistle – and despite a last-gasp Hearts’ equaliser – the emotion of it all was clear.

Ibrox applauded and sang and offered its thanks. There were banners of appreciation and, out on the field, some misty eyes.

Both injured, Ryan Kent and Filip Helander had to journey down from seats in the stand. Allan McGregor, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield all got to play at Ibrox one last time. They wanted to win, but the bittersweet conclusion of Garang Kuol’s stoppage-time goal was quickly set aside to take it all in.

Garang Kuol scored a late equaliser as Hearts secured a 2-2 draw away to Rangers

Kuol, who is on loan from Newcastle United, scored his first Hearts goal in the dying moments

Fashion Sakala celebrates after his goal put Rangers 2-1 ahead in their clash with Hearts

McGregor and Morelos had both started. Both were also booked as some old archetypes were fulfilled before the curtain came down.

Ever agitated, McGregor got his yellow card for dissent. Morelos picked up one up for a foul on Peter Haring, having earlier been involved in a running verbal feud with Hearts manager Steven Naismith. You wondered, briefly, if there might a final, explosive drama.

The Colombian was desperate to hit the net, but a goal just wouldn’t come. His substitution on 81 minutes saw the stadium rise in a standing ovation for the club’s all-time leading European scorer.

Arfield came off the bench and twice went close himself. ‘We salute you, Scott Arfield’ read the message from the Union Bears fan group.

Trailing to Lawrence Shankland’s first minute goal, an equaliser arrived from a player who is a massive part of the future under Michael Beale. Todd Cantwell’s exquisite strike was followed by a scruffier one from Fashion Sakala to put Rangers ahead early in the second period.

The leaving party looked set to have its perfect outcome. But then substitute Kuol knocked the ball beyond McGregor with pretty much the final kick of the game.

It wasn’t enough to salvage Hearts’ hopes of third place. They went with Aberdeen’s win over St Mirren. Two points ahead of Hibs, Naismith’s men can now secure fourth spot by avoiding defeat against their city rivals on Saturday.

For Rangers, Beale’s summer rebuild formally began a couple of hours before kick-off when the signing of Kieran Dowell was announced. The 25-year-old midfielder will move from Norwich City on July 1, having agreed a three-year deal.

Ryan Kent, Scott Arfield, Alfredo Morelos, goalkeeper Allan McGregor and Filip Helander said goodbye to the Ibrox crowd

Sakala manage to send the ball between the legs of Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark

Todd Cantwell got Rangers equaliser with the midfielder scoring just before half time

Cantwell celebrates his goal, which saw Rangers pull level in their clash against Hearts

Chelsea full-back Dujon Sterling is also understood to have finalised terms, while the pursuits of ex-England goalkeeper Jack Butland and Los Angeles FC midfielder Jose Cifuentes are continuing.

Others will also be targeted. By the time Rangers return for pre-season training on June 30, Beale expects to have a good number of building blocks in place. The transformation will be the biggest since Steven Gerrard checked in at Ibrox in 2018.

Beale’s selection offered the opportunity for proper goodbyes. Robby McCrorie’s recent run in goal came to an end as McGregor made a 502nd Rangers appearance. Up front, Morelos pulled on the shirt for a 269th time.

Both received additional cheers when the teams were round pre-match, with the announcer emphasising the significance of the evening. Hearts, though, were utterly unmoved.

Naismith’s men hassled their hosts straight from kick-off. And had the ball in the net after 48 seconds.

MATCH FACTS 

Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor 6; Tavernier 5, Souttar 6, King 6 (Arfield 66), Yilmaz 6; Lundstram 6, Raskin 7 (Jack 81), Kamara 6 (Matondo 66); Cantwell 8, Morelos 6 (Wright 81), Sakala 7 (Lowry 90).

Subs not used: McCrorie, Hagi, Barisic, Devine. Booked: McGregor, Yilmaz, Morelos

Hearts (4-2-3-1): Clark 7, Atkinson 6, Sibbick 5, Rowles 6, Hill 6; Devlin 7, Haring 7 (Kiomourtzoglou 83); Oda 6 (Smith 61), Shankland 6, Forrest 6 (Kuol 83); Ginnelly 6.

Subs not used: Stewart, Grant, Halliday, McKay, Neilson, Tait.

Booked: Ginnelly, Rowles, Smith, Kuol.

Referee: John Beaton.

Attendance: 48,428.

Man of the match: Todd Cantwell.

Haring leapt to nod on a long throw from James Hill, with James Tavernier botching an attempted headed clearance at the far post.

The ball only went as far as Shankland, whose header cannoned off Leon King. Josh Ginnelly got a touch before Shankland followed up to knock into the net.

A chaotic picture inside the six-yard box prompted assistant referee Frank Connor to initially raise an offside flag. Rangers thought they’d escaped. It was a false hope.

Referee John Beaton held up play while he listened to VAR,. The check lasted almost two minutes before it was determined the offside call was wrong. Hearts were in front. And a second goal nearly followed on six minutes.

Rangers looked wide open in the middle as Haring aimed a through-ball for Ginnelly. Lightning quick, the Englishman easily tricked his way past King before thumping in a low drive repelled by McGregor. Ibrox was no longer feeling quite so warm and fuzzy.

Beale’s side had to steady themselves. And they did to some extent, equalising right at the end of an increasingly ill-tempered first half.

Earlier opportunities were thwarted by Zander Clark. The Tynecastle goalkeeper readjusted to block King’s deflected strike before tipping over a Nicolas Raskin piledriver. When Fashion Sakala then let fly off his left foot, Clark touch the ball onto his right-hand post.

The temperature was rising. McGregor saw yellow before Naismith – once of this parish, of course – was booked for kicking a ball back into play to stop a quick throw.

Soon, Morelos and the Hearts manager were involved in a dispiute. The Colombian unloaded at Naismith during an injury stoppage and the back-and-forth appeared to continue.

Lawrence Shankland celebrates after his early goal put Hearts in the lead against Rangers

Shankland scored from close range, with the goal allowed to stand following a VAR check

Morelos had a say that mattered in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. As Cantwell broke and fed the ball to him on the left, the striker provided a return pass. Hill slipped as he tried to cut it out and Cantwell was in.

Advancing inside the area, an excellent left-foot finish was angled in off the far post. Morelos turned to give Naismith both barrels as he celebrated.

The half-time whistle quickly created a pause in on-field hostilities, although broadcaster Sky Sports reported Ginnelly was booked in the tunnel.

Composure came with the restart. And Rangers quickly benefited. Two minutes into the second half, they were in front. Thanks, it must be said, to Toby Sibbick’s error.

The Hearts centre-back made a complete ricket of dealing with a long ball from Cantwell, letting it simply bounce off his head. Sakala bustled in to accept the gift. His shot under the advancing Clark just made it over the line amid Hill’s attempt to clear.

That would have been the storybook end. Hearts, though, found a way to earn a point before those five Rangers players earned one last round of applause.

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