Rangers held to draw in SPL opener

Rangers 1 Hearts 1

Rangers 1 Hearts 1

New manager Ally McCoist was denied victory in his first game in charge as Rangers were held to a draw by Hearts in their Clydesdale Bank Premier League opener.

David Obua opened the scoring for Hearts before Steven Naismith hit back in the second half for Rangers.

But the champions could not find the goal to begin their defence of the title with a win.

New signing Lee Wallace had to settle for a place on the bench against former club Hearts, while fellow new signing Juan Manuel Ortiz made his SPL debut from the start. Skipper David Weir was suspended.

Hearts handed league debuts to Danny Grainger, John Sutton and Mehdi Taouil but another summer signing, Jamie Hamill, was suspended.

Chairman Craig Whyte unfurled the SPL flag as Rangers celebrated their world record 54th title before kick-off.

Once the game was under way, the Scottish champions could have taken the lead when Steven Whittaker lofted in the path of Nikica Jelavic, who turned in the box and fired just wide of the target from 10 yards.

Hearts made their first change after just eight minutes when former Rangers defender Andy Webster, presumably still struggling with a groin injury, was replaced by Adrian Mrowiec.

The visitors set out to ruin the party atmosphere and went ahead after 16 minutes when David Obua rose above everyone else in the goal-mouth to meet Grainger’s corner and bullet a powerful header into the back of the net.

Hearts could have doubled their advantage when David Templeton ran on to Sutton’s flick-on and tried his luck with an angled drive that goalkeeper Allan McGregor was able to block.

Obua then rifled into the side-netting as he searched for his second of the day and the Jambos cranked up the pressure on their hosts.

At the other end, Jelavic saw a weak shot under pressure from Marius Zaliukas tipped wide by goalkeeper Marian Kello as Rangers headed into the interval still trailing.

Rangers tried to hit back after the restart and Kirk Broadfoot – deputising for Weir at centre-half – saw his header saved by Kello.

Steven Naismith then hooked just over the crossbar after meeting a decent cross from Ortiz, as the home side battled to haul themselves back into the game.

Rangers were back on level terms after 57 minutes when Sasa Papac supplied a cross from the left for Naismith and, this time, he left the net bulging with a glancing header that nestled in the bottom corner.

Rangers pushed for a winner and Whittaker teed up Ortiz for the shot but he hesitated and the danger was cleared by Hearts.

The Spaniard was then replaced by Gregg Wylde after 76 minutes.

Hearts could have snatched the win when McGregor was called into action with a superb save to deny Obua.

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