Livingston 1-0 Hearts: Cristian Montano’s winner ends Livi’s losing streak

Livingston ended a run of three consecutive defeats as Cristian Montano’s first-half goal earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory at home to Hearts.

The Tynecastle side started the game strongly but, after the Lions got themselves in front in the 28th minute, they rarely looked like relinquishing their lead.

Hearts have now lost five of their last six games in all competitions as they prepare to kick off their Europa Conference League campaign at home to Istanbul Basaksehir on Thursday.

How Livingston ended their losing streak

Livingston boss David Martindale made just one tweak to the side that started the midweek Premier Sports Cup defeat by Dundee United as Andrew Shinnie dropped out to be replaced by James Penrice. New signing Stephen Kelly was listed among the substitutes.

There were four changes to the Hearts side that started the Premier Sports Cup defeat at home to Kilmarnock as Stephen Kingsley, Jorge Grant, Toby Sibbick and newly-signed striker Stephen Humphrys came in for Michael Smith, Peter Haring, Josh Ginnelly and Lawrence Shankland, all of whom dropped to the bench.

Scotland goalkeeper Zander Clark, who joined the Jambos on Friday night, was not in the squad.

The visitors had the first chance after just three minutes when Gary Mackay-Steven’s high, looping cross from the left was met at the back post by Humphrys but the debutant – slightly off balance as he stretched to reach it – sent his close-range volley over the bar.

Montano celebrates his goal with Joel Nouble

Hearts should have gone ahead in the 13th minute when a lovely first-time pass from Barrie McKay released Grant inside the box but the midfielder fired wastefully wide from 12 yards out with just goalkeeper Shamal George to beat.

Livingston went ahead with their first chance of the match in the 28th minute when Jason Holt’s free-kick into the box found left-back Montano, who took a touch before slotting past Craig Gordon from 10 yards out.

The Tynecastle side had an opportunity to respond in the 35th minute when Mackay-Steven won a free-kick just outside the box but Kingsley curled his shot just over.

The Lions should have doubled their lead a minute later when Penrice burst into the box and squared the ball into the centre for Esmael Goncalves but the former Hearts attacker sent his effort wide of a gaping goal from six yards out.

Livingston's Esmael Goncalves misses a chance from close range
Livingston’s Esmael Goncalves misses a chance from close range

Hearts – in need of some inspiration – made a triple substitution in the 56th minute as Shankland, Forrest and Haring replaced Grant, Mackay-Steven and Cameron Devlin.

Visiting goalkeeper Gordon kept his side in the game with a couple of impressive saves to deny Kurtis Guthrie and Scott Pittman, but the Jambos were unable to conjure a notable opening at the other end.

Martindale: Change of shape helped us

Livingston boss David Martindale: “I don’t think the 4-4-1-1 was working. We changed the shape to two wingers and a striker and I think that really, really helped us.

“I did expect the second half to be a wee bit different to how it panned out. I thought we controlled a lot of it as we limited Hearts to very, very little chances in the final third and over the piece we had the best chances in the game, first half and second half.

“I just wish the boys would go and score two goals because my heart was in my mouth sometimes.”

Neilson: We didn’t do enough to win

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: “First 20 minutes we did well, did everything we spoke about, and then we got caught up in the game. We weren’t good enough after that, we didn’t do enough to deserve to win the game.”

Asked about why they lost their way after such a bright start, Neilson said: “That was a big frustration. We spoke at half-time about trying to get back to that again. The whole game plan when you come here is to take it out of the pressure areas because they want to come after you centrally.

“First 20 minutes we were great, switching play, getting it wide, getting deliveries. And then the game starts to break up a wee bit and we start forcing the ball into the middle areas.

“They get regains, they start breaking on you, start getting shots on goal and the whole momentum of the game turned. That was the disappointing thing.”

What’s next?

Livingston head to leaders Celtic on Saturday September 10 for a 3pm kick-off. Hearts begin their Europa Conference League campaign at home to Istanbul Basaksehir on Thursday before hosting St Mirren at 3pm on Sunday.

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