Livingston 1-0 Hearts: Lost for Jambos ahead of Europa Conference League opener

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Christian Montano’s first-half goal settled that matter at the Tony Macaroni Arena and there’s no doubt the hosts deserved all three points. He created a number of chances during the 90 minutes and could have scored more. In contrast, Hearts looked toothless in attack.

New signing Stephen Humphrys made his Premiership debut two days after arriving on loan from Wigan Athletic. There was no spot on the matchday squad for goaltender Zander Clark, who signed a three-year contract as a free agent on Friday night.

Livingston minded business diligently after three straight defeats and their enforcement levels indicated they were in no mood to relinquish the lead after Montano scored.

After four defeats in their last five matches in all competitions, Hearts wanted to regain momentum at West Lothian before starting the Europa Conference League group stage against Istanbul Basaksehir on Thursday. Their performance fell short of the required heights and they ended the afternoon with just one shot on target.

Livingston fielded former Tynecastle striker Esmael Goncalves knowing he hadn’t beaten the Edinburgh club in eight appearances since a 5-0 win over Craig Levein’s Hearts side in 2018.

Hearts created a fantastic 11th-minute opener when Stephen Kingsley’s run and left-sided cross found Barrie McKay. His first disguised pass to Jorge Grant inside the home penalty area preceded a careless finish from the Englishman.

The left side gave the visitors plenty of space early on as Gary Mackay-Steven delivered several dangerous balls in the first half. However, the first goal of the match belonged to Livingston in the 28th minute.

Livingston’s Stephane Omeonga and Hearts’ Alex Cochrane in action during Saturday’s game.

Toby Sibbick fouled Joel Nouble and Jason Holt’s floating free kick found Montano unmarked inside the penalty area. He had time to control before sending a calm finish past Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon as the maroon shirts unsuccessfully called for an offside flag.

And 1-0 should have been 2-0 when James Penrice sprinted past Lewis Neilson to collect a long ball. He squared Goncalves in space about ten meters away but the Portuguese’s attempt to slide missed the post.

Livingston certainly had the momentum and caused problems down the Hearts right with Nouble suspended at full-back Sibbick. Referee Willie Collum also had no shortage of fouls in an increasingly competitive affair.

As the second half progressed, Livingston’s desire to contest every ball increased. They protected their advantage and snuffed out any Hearts threats, with the Tynecastle side consequently struggling to create clear goalscoring chances. A number of soft passes under little pressure didn’t help.

An impromptu backheel effort from substitute Kurtis Guthrie was prevented by Gordon, and the goalkeeper then shoved a powerful drive from Scott Pittman onto his crossbar.

Hearts substitute Alan Forrest hit a deflected effort on goal in the final minutes, and Stephen Kingsley’s header looped over the crossbar before the final whistle.

Livingston (4-2-3-1): George; Devlin, Obileye, Sean Kelly, Montano (Longridge 83); Holt, Pitman; Omeonga (Stephen Kelly 81), Gonçalves (Bahamboula 56), Penrice (Guthrie 56); Noble.

Hearts (4-2-3-1):Gordon; Sibbick, Neilson, Kingsley, Cochrane; Devlin (Shankland 56), Halliday (Henderson 83); McKay, Grant (Haring 56), Mackay-Steven (Forrest 56); Humphrys (Ginnelly 65).

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