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Duk delivers in style as Aberdeen return to winning ways against Hearts

Duk fires home the opener for Aberdeen.
Duk fires home the opener for Aberdeen.

In a game where old fashioned hard graft won out it was fitting that Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes should play the leading role for Aberdeen as they returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory against Hearts.

A goal and an assist in four second half minutes from Duk gave Aberdeen the honours and three points as the Dons moved up to fourth in the Scottish Premiership.

Duk ran himself into exhaustion before departing to a rousing reception. It was no less than he deserved for an excellent shift for his side.

Dons made four changes from Tannadice

Dons boss Jim Goodwin, back in the dugout after appealing his eight-game ban from the SFA for comments after the defeat at Hibernian last month, made four changes from the side beaten 4-0 by Dundee United at Tannadice.

Jonny Hayes and Hayden Coulson missed out due to injury while Vicente Besuijen and Marley Watkins dropped to the bench.

The four players added to the starting line-up were Leighton Clarkson, Jack Mackenzie, Duk and Connor Barron.

The changes resulted in a change of formation for the Dons too as Goodwin switched to a back three with Ross McCrorie dropping back alongside captain Anthony Stewart and Liam Scales.

First half of few chances

Aberdeen, having surrendered so meekly at Tannadice, were fired up for this game but that intensity led to Jayden Richardson being booked after just 70 seconds for clattering into Alex Cochrane as the Hearts defender made a clearance.

The Jambos have had defensive issues in recent weeks and they were forced into another early change when Andy Halliday limped off with an ankle injury after just 10 minutes.

In an opening of little of note Hearts midfielder Orestis Kiomourtzoglou was at the centre of a penalty claim from the home side after Duk went to ground in the box but referee Don Robertson was unimpressed.

It was gritty, competitive and combative but chances were at a premium as evidenced by the fact it took until the 21st minute for either side to have a sight at goal.

When it came it was not worth the wait as Stephen Humphrys’ long range effort for Hearts was lucky not to clear the Merkland Stand.

Perhaps it was to be expected given Hearts’ midweek mauling in Italy by Fiorentina and the Dons’ fragile confidence following their Tannadice torment.

Aberdeen’s lack of width was telling as they struggled to build any sustained period of pressure in the first half.

Aberdeen claim for a penalty as the ball appears to hit the arm of Lewis Neilson. Image: Mark Scates / SNS Group

They may not have tested Craig Gordon but they had another penalty claim turned away when substitute Lewis Neilson appeared to handle the ball under pressure from Duk.

The Jambos were wasteful with their first chance but they were left red faced at not taking their second as Lawrence Shankland’s lay-off found Humphrys who crossed for Cochrane.

But with Kelle Roos to beat Cochrane’s from six yards lacked power and precision and he succeeded in firing straight at the Dons goalkeeper.

Hearts’ Alex Cochrane can’t believe he’s missed a chance. Image: Craig Foy / SNS Group

Hearts may have been weary from their Italian trip but they took control of proceedings and Shankland fired narrowly wide before Roos did well to hold Robert Snodgrass’ powerful drive.

For all the visitors’ pressure it was the Dons who should have taken the lead in first half stoppage time when Bojan Miovski sent Duk clearn on goal but Gordon brilliantly blocked the striker’s shot.

Gordon’s save was matched by Roos seconds later as he tipped a Shankland lob over the crossbar.

Dons survive early second half scare to score two late goals

Aberdeen’s Kelle Roos makes a save from Hearts’ Stephen Humphrys . Image: Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Roos was called into action again seconds after the interval as a poor pass back from captain Stewart led to Humphrys racing clear but Roos blocked at the striker’s feet.

The Dons responded with Duk – who else – at the near post but Gordon stuck out a hand to save his angled drive.

With misplaced passes aplenty it made for scrappy viewing and McCrorie decided to take matters into his own hands as he made a surging drive into the box.

But from his low ball across goal Miovski’s effort went just wide of the post.

With 70 minutes played and little change in proceedings Vicente Besuijen was introduced into proceedings and he had been on the pitch all of three minutes when the deadlock was broken.

Ylber Ramadani’s terrific through ball was matched by Duk as he took a touch before firing past Gordon to give the Dons the lead.

Aberdeen’s Vincente Besuijen celebrates after making it 2-0. Image: Craig Foy / SNS Group.

It was no less than Duk deserved for his efforts and he wasted little time in helping put the game beyond Hearts four minutes later as he ran from deep before playing Besuijen in to fire home the second.

Duk departed thereafter with the fans cheering his name. And so they should.

Aberdeen (3-5-2) – Roos 7, McCrorie 6, Stewart 6, Scales 7, Richardson 6, Clarkson (Besuijen 70) 6, Ramadani 6, Barron 6, Mackenzie (Kennedy 87) 6, Lopes (Watkins 81) 8, Miovski 6. Subs not used – Lewis, Morris, Duncan, Milne, Bavidge, Ramirez.

Hearts (4-2-3-1) – Gordon 7, Sibbick 6, Kingsley 7, Cochrane 7, Halliday (Neilson 10) 2, Kiomourtzoglou 6, Snodgrass (Haring 82 (Grant 89)) 6, Humphrys 7, Forrest (Smith 82) 6, McKay 6, Shankland 6. Subs not used – Stewart, Clark, Henderson, Pollock.

Referee – Don Robertson 6.

Attendance – 14,711.

Man of the match – Duk.