Livi slumped to their heaviest defeat since March 2013 as league-leaders Hearts ran riot on a forgettable afternoon at Tynecastle.
Not since a 6-1 drubbing by Partick Thistle had Livi shipped five goals in a match but everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong on a disastrous afternoon in Gorgie when only some brilliant goalkeeping from Darren Jamieson stopped the Jambos racking up a cricket score.
The hosts were on top virtually throughout and came close to an early opener when Osman Sow was played in down the left but his shot flew across goal and wide. They came even closer when Jamie Walker rounded off a sumptuous move with a decent strike which Craig Sives did well to deflect over the bar. There was then good link-up play between Walker and Sam Nicholson but Sives did well to thwart the danger.
It proved only a brief respite for the Lions as Hearts hit the front on 14 minutes when Soufian El Hassnaoui was left with the freedom of Gorgie 25 yards out and he picked his spot to arrow a low drive past the despairing Jamieson and into the corner of the net. The play was broken up by a couple of nasty injuries, particularly that suffered by Lions captain Jason Talbot after an aerial challenge with Sow left him with blood pouring from a head wound.
He eventually had to be substituted but before Livi could be restored to their full complement they found themselves 2-0 down. Alim Ozturk curled a free kick off the bar in the immediate aftermath of Talbot’s injury and moments later Walker drove down the left and saw his cut back take a wicked deflection and sneak in at Jamieson’s near post. Livi then made their change as David Robertson took the field.
A first ‘chance’ fell Livi’s way as Myles Hippolyte fired in a low drive from distance which Neil Alexander comfortably saved. Hearts then came close to a third when Sow latched on to a tame header from Callum Fordyce but couldn’t beat Jamieson, who spread himself to make a fine save. Livi then had another effort as Mark Burchill hit the byline and cut the ball back for Gary Glen but the one-time Jambo could only fire the ball just over.
Prince Buaben then saw a low effort blocked by Keaghan but once again it was just a brief let-off as Hearts killed the game off once and for all just before half-time with a goal all of Livi’s own doing. Jamieson played the ball out to Burton O’Brien who took too long on the ball, allowing Sow to dispossess him and the Swede had all the time in the world to slip a low shot beyond the exposed Jamieson and send Hearts in at the break with an emphatic lead.
Livi came out for the second half with little more than pride to play but they did at least try to take the game to the Jambos, winning a free kick just outside the box which O’Brien curled wide. Nicholson then went on a driving run down the left and, where Robertson failed, Hippolyte succeeded in bringing him down – both men receiving yellow cards.
A spate of substitutions disrupted the flow as Hearts remained comfortable, though Livi should have pulled one back when White released Burchill down the left but the ex-Scotland man seemed to be caught in two minds and sent a tame chip bobbling across goal and wide. The Jambos continued to press and Morgaro Gomis was inches away from a fourth with a thunderous drive which came crashing back off the bar with Jamieson helpless.
Jamieson was becoming a one-man barrier and denied Sow his second with a stunning reaction save to keep out the Swede’s cheeky backheel. Billy King was next to be denied by Jamieson as he drilled in a low effort which the Livi no.1 had to spring to his right to keep out with a fingertip save. It was only Jamieson keeping the scoreline respectable by this point and he was at his best once again to deny sub Dale Carrick from close range before producing another top drawer save to keep out James Keatings’ powerful effort.
Livi almost bagged a consolation with a rare foray forward as Gary Glen nodded a cross back into the box for White but his header could only loop onto the roof of the net. Sow then got carried away with himself after going clear and, after rounding Jamieson, he found he’d left himself with too much to do and his cut back was taken off the toes of Carrick by Keaghan. Just as it looked like Livi would see out the match without further damage, they found themselves 4-0 down on 87 minutes as King won the ball on the right hand side and cut the ball for Keatings to tap home.
The Lions’ misery was completed as Hearts went nap for the second week running when Sow produced a sublime first-time finish to flick Carrick’s cross from the right beyond Jamieson and complete an emphatic win for Robbie Neilson’s side to send them six points clear of Rangers at the top of the Championship.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, McHattie, Wilson, Ozturk, Gomis, Walker (Carrick 62), El Hassnaoui (Keatings 76), Nicholson (King 63), Buaben, Sow
Subs not used: Hamilton, Holt, McGhee, Eckersley
Livingston: 1 Jamieson, 2 Sives, 3 Talbot (Robertson 31), 5 Fordyce, 6 Ky.Jacobs, 7 Ke.Jacobs, 8 O'Brien, 11 Hippolyte (Mullen 61), 18 White, 19 Glen, 27 Burchill (McKenna 62)
Subs not used: 9 Ogleby, 16 Beaumont, 21 Grant, 31 Rutherford
Referee: Don Robertson
Match report: Andrew Crawford