The Lions came within minutes of a first win at Tynecastle since 2002 – in a match filled with VAR-related controversy, as a late Josh Ginnelly goal cancelled out Stephen Kelly’s first Livi goal.
Livingston came into this one on the back of two wins against Kilmarnock and Aberdeen. They were looking to further cement their place in the top six, and put more pressure on third place Aberdeen.
Each side had their chances in the first half, however neither could capitalise to take a lead into the break. First Lawrence Shankland will think he could have done better. Alex Cochrane’s cutback was met by Shankland, but the Scotland international could only blaze the ball over the bar.
Then, Livingston would come close twice in quick succession. Hearts’ failure to properly deal with a Sean Kelly corner allowed Cristian Montaño time to get the ball back into the mixer, and lurking at the back post Stephen Kelly connected well with his header, only for Craig Gordon to snuff the chance out for another corner.
As a result of that corner, Livingston had the best chance of the first half. Jack Fitzwater rose to power a header towards the top corner, however Gordon was on hand to save acrobatically.
Livingston would get the breakthrough on 55 minutes. Ivan Konovalov was deputising for injured number one Shamal George, and was having an impressive afternoon. His long ball was well taken down by Andrew Shinnie, who found Stephen Kelly. Kelly did well to beat the first Hearts defender before slotting the ball into the bottom corner.
Both sides would push for the next goal and Hearts were in the ascendancy. VAR controversy would temporarily halt that.
Joel Nouble had terrorised the Hearts defence for much of the afternoon and with 15 minutes remaining he looked certain to add to Livingston’s tally. The big attacker did well to spin Kyle Rowes and get his shot away, but Gordon was on hand again to stymie his chances.
Hearts broke up the other end and won a freekick in a dangerous position but, before it could be taken, a VAR check was signalled – much to the surprise of most in the ground. With the check over, Craig Napier pointed to the spot and awarded Livingston a penalty, issuing Rowes with his marching orders in the process.
Up stepped Sean Kelly to take the penalty, but Gordon once again proved Hearts’ saviour as he impressively saved Kelly’s with his feet.
With time running out for Hearts, the penalty saved might have proved the impetus for a comeback. However, Konovalov was often a capable match for the Hearts forwards.
However, it was soon Livingston’s turn to feel aggrieved by a VAR decision. Cochrane looked very late with his challenge on Nicky Devlin but after a check, the referee awarded Hearts a throw. Subsequent replays would raise questions around the decision.
Then, as the game reached its end, Hearts finally found their equaliser. Nouble did well to find himself in the opposition box under pressure from numerous Hearts defenders. He went down and Hearts were able to break. Ayo Obileye’s clearance from Alan Forrest’s cross wasn’t enough, and Ginnelly powered his shot home with the last kick of the ball.
The Lions would have to settle for a point in the capital.
Match Report: Callum McCormack
Hearts: Gordon ©, McKay, Smith, Cochrane, Rowles ▊, Kiomourtzoglou ▊ (Smith 67 (Halkett 77)), Snodgrass, Sibbick, Ginnelly, Devlin (Forrest 62), Shankland, Halliday
Subs not used: Neilson, Pollock, Henderson, Atkinson, Stewart, McLuckie
Goals: Ginnelly (90)
Livingston: Konovalov, Fitzwater, Obileye, Devlin ©, Montaño, Shinnie (Bahamboula 82), Sn.Kelly, St.Kelly (Pittman, 69), Omeonga ▊, Holt, Nouble
Subs not used: Gonçalves, Hamilton, Penrice, Boyes, Anderson, Longridge
Goals: St.Kelly (55)
Referee: Craig Napier