Hearts......................2 Rangers.....................1

Rangers were unable to gain revenge for that Scottish Cup final defeat in May - and, instead, could have found themselves opening the new Premier League season by losing heavily at Tynecastle.

The Edinburgh team were two goals up inside 20 minutes as they took advantage of the makeshift Ibrox defence - a back four which looked as if it had been hastily put together on the bus journey to the game.

The new Rangers coach, Dutchman Dick Advocaat, had few alternatives left to him, with Lorenzo Amoruso, Gordan Petric, and reserve Scott Wilson suspended for yesterday's game and Romanian Daniel Prodan still not available after his #2.2m signing.

Hearts sensed the uncertainty and made it clear from the start that they were intending to place the Ibrox back four under pressure. That is what they did - and they did so with notable success in the opening spell, when the Glasgow side could not cope with the balls which rained in on top of them.

The first goal was a comedy of errors for the defenders Advocaat had been forced to rely on. Rino Gattuso, out of position at right back, was caught out by a pass from Jim Hamilton which sent Neil McCann clear. The little winger then played the ball into the penalty box, where Sergio Porrini and then team captain Arthur Numan missed it, allowing Stephane Adam to place a shot past Antti Niemi.

Rangers could not push forward the way Advocaat was demanding from the dugout, and every time Hearts thrust forward they found openings.

The second goal came when Jonas Thern was dispossessed by Adam, and the Frenchman's pass was drilled beyond Niemi by Hamilton, and Rangers looked in deep trouble.

Niemi had to make a double save from Hamilton and then Adam immediately after that second goal and the pressure on Rangers did not lessen.

It was 28 minutes before Rangers could put together a meaningful attacking move, and when they did they scored. Gordon Durie made the opening with a header, and there was Rod Wallace to finish the move by sending the ball past Gilles Rousset.

That helped lift Rangers, but Niemi still had to make a save at McCann's feet, just as he had done earlier when Adam broke through on him at 1-0.

At half-time, the game changed. Advocaat who had started with #10m worth of talent on the bench in the shape of Andrei Kanchelskis and Gabriele Amato, decided to unleash the Russian and the mere sight of the record signing powering forward on the right appeared to un-nerve the Tynecastle men.

Where, in the first half, they had been confident and positive, they now looked uncertain.

Whenever the ball went in the direction of the winger there were signs of panic, similar to that which had afflicted Rangers' defence for so much of the first 45 minutes.

Advocaat had also brought Jorg Albertz inside from the wide left position and pushed Giovanni van Bronckhorst out there. That, too, helped their cause.

The Dutchman collected a pass from Albertz in 56 minutes and his clever ball inside found Wallace, whose shot soared too high. It was one of several warnings for the Edinburgh side, and when Amato appeared in place of van Bronckhorst, they knew that Rangers were now looking to save the game.

Wallace and Amato were close before Rousset was called on to save his side. Eight minutes from the end the keeper pushed away a fierce drive from Albertz, and when Numan failed to collect the ball cleanly, he recovered to hold the ball. Three minutes later he made a similar stop from an angled shot from Durie and that was the last chance Rangers had.

Hearts will be happy with the early part of the game but unhappy with the untidy manner in which they dealt with Rangers after half-time.

Rangers will have these feelings in reverse but they know that they have defenders to return which will help. They know already the value Kanchelskis will have for them.

There were bookings for Adam and Steve Fulton, of Hearts, and Rangers' Durie, Moore, and Ian Ferguson.

It was a tough baptism for Advocaat, not one he would have chosen for himself and his new team, and the only consolation he can draw from this is that last season his fellow countryman, Wim Jansen, arrived in Edinburgh for his first game - against Hibs at Easter Road - and also suffered defeat. That day Celtic looked just as unlikely challengers for the title as Rangers did yesterday.

Hearts, meanwhile, despite the second-half shakes, may be moving onwards and upwards from that Scottish Cup success.

Hearts - Rousset, Locke, Weir, Ritchie, Naysmith, Flogel, Salvatori, Fulton, McCann, Adam, Hamilton. Substitutes: McKenzie, Quitongo, Murray, Holmes, Milne.

Rangers - Niemi, Gattuso, Porrini, Moore, Numan, Thern, I Ferguson, Van Bronckhorst, Albertz, Wallace, Durie. Substitutes - Kanchelskis, Amato, Vidmar, Nicholson, Brown.

Referee - H Dallas (Motherwell).

Turning point

The all-important second goal yesterday came as a real body blow to Rangers.

It arrived when their Swedish internationalist, Jonas Thern, was dispossessed and the ball ended up at the feet of Hearts' striker Jim Hamilton, and he sent the sent the home fans wild. Rangers knew then that they were in deep trouble.