Hearts consolidate third after thrashing Aberdeen
Last updated on .From the section Scottish Premiership
Hearts bolstered their chances of successive third-place finishes in the Scottish Premiership by thrashing a woeful Aberdeen at Tynecastle.
Cammy Devlin added a fifth in the second half and it could have been more, as a ragged Aberdeen collapsed.
It leaves Jim Goodwin's side with just one win in their last eight games.
And it returns the pressure on the Aberdeen manager, with his side now trailing Hearts by nine points and Livingston by two, having played a game more than the latter.
Hearts dominated possession in the early stages, but the first chance of the game went the way of the visitors. Ylber Ramadani was given the freedom of Tyncecastle and forced a decent save from Zander Clark from outside the box.
From there though, it was all downhill for Aberdeen. A long throw from James Hill sparked panic amongst the Aberdeen defenders and the ball bobbled off Shinnie under pressure from Ginnelly and past a helpless Joe Lewis.
Toby Sibbick then found Smith in behind the unaware Aberdeen defence with a pinpoint diagonal pass, and the veteran defender curled a sublime left-footed shot beyond Lewis.
Hearts were gifted a penalty when Liam Scales clearly handballed an optimistic cross. Shankland dispatched the spot-kick to score his 19th league goal of the season, and Ginnelly added a delightful fourth, dinking Shankland's cross beyond Lewis.
The second half continued in much the same vein, with Hearts creating chances at will. Devlin ghosted into space on the edge of the box, and his deflected strike flew into the back of the net.
It could, and perhaps should, have been more. Shankland hit a post from close range, and Stephen Humphrys would have had a tap-in had his studs been just that little bit longer.
Aberdeen thought they had scored a late consolation when Marley Watkins turned home Vicente Besuijen's cross from close range, but VAR spotted an offside in the build-up, and the goal was chalked off on a night were nothing went right.
Aberdeen's away form and their defensive vulnerabilities have both been firmly in the spotlight this season, but this horror show at Tynecastle was the lowest point in both senses.
Goodwin's side came into this game off the back of an energy-sapping semi-final defeat at Hampden on Sunday, and were without captain Anthony Stewart and first-choice goalkeeper Kelle Roos.
However, tiredness and absentees do not excuse a complete lack of defensive competency. On several occasions, Hearts forward players found themselves in dangerous areas under no pressure, and at this level you will get punished.
That is now 27 goals conceded in 11 away league games this season, and 37 in total.
For Hearts, it was a clinical and comprehensive display that confirmed their status as the third best team in Scotland.
With new signings in the door and proven performers returning from injury, Robbie Neilson has a strength in depth that will be the envy of every club outside the Old Firm.
What they said
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: "We're obviously delighted with the final outcome. To be honest, first five or 10 minutes, it was a pretty even game, but we got the goals at the right time and managed to pull away, which was very pleasing.
"Second half, I feel we haven't done as well after the break, and we weren't quite there again."
Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin: "The talking needs to be done on the pitch. We can do all the analysis that we do; Hearts haven't surprised us tonight.
"I don't really know how I'm standing here after a 5-0 defeat. We didn't defend well enough, that's the bottom line. We got into good areas going forward, but no-one wants to hear that."
Hearts go to Easter Road on Sunday to face Edinburgh rivals Hibernian in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup (14:00 GMT), whilst Aberdeen travel to West of Scotland Premier side Darvel FC on Monday, which is live on BBC Scotland (19:45).