Michael Beale heaped praise on his Rangers side for the way they dismantled a Hearts side he felt were set up to have “a right go” at them.
The Jambos were unbeaten in 10 ahead of Wednesday’s Tynecastle showdown and manager Robbie Neilson picked a team loaded with attacking players.
Gers boss Beale was “really pleased” with the way his side stifled the life out of their hosts and took full control of the match from the first whistle before running out deserved 3-0 winners.
“I was really pleased with the display playing opponents who are riding high and coming into the game with lots of confidence,” he said. “We knew we had to be at our very best out of possession.
“We were excellent in terms of regains and caused lots of problems for Hearts. Away from home, teams come to you a bit more, the crowd get up and they anticipated a performance from their team so we had to be good defensively. We showed a different side. We went for the kill quickly.
“It’s nice sometimes away from home (when teams try to have a go) because it opens up spaces. When I looked at their team, I was like ‘ooh, he’s having a right go at us’, and I was a little bit concerned that maybe some of their power and running might cause us some issues.
“I warned the team but if you compare the start of the game tonight to the first 10 minutes at Kilmarnock away (a fortnight previously), which is something I’m hitting them over the head with constantly, they were much improved.”
Alfredo Morelos hit a double and Malik Tillman netted the other but Beale felt his team should have scored more on a night when they had three goals ruled out for offside and a penalty award overturned following VAR reviews.
“I just said to them they have set a good standard but I still want more because we could have scored more,” he said. “Zander Clark had good game but we were wasteful at times.
“We did good things well and we should demand more from each other.
“At the weekend we missed eight to 10 chances and tonight a lot of our approach and defending was fantastic but we should keep rewarding ourselves in the final third. I was delighted with three but it could have been more.”
Hearts manager Neilson did not feel his players executed the game-plan well enough and he was forced to switch from his bold 3-5-2 formation – with a midfield featuring two players who usually play in attack – to a slightly more compact 4-2-3-1 after half an hour.
“There are a lot of disappointments,” he said. “I just think we didn’t get anywhere near the level we’ve been getting to.
“There are two sides to that, I thought Rangers played very well, pressed well, they were aggressive.
“But when the opportunity came to play we never connected with our passes, our passes were going back the way and we were making mistakes we probably haven’t made previously. It was a disappointing evening.”