By: Hibernian Media on 13 May, 2018 15:55
Jamie Maclaren netted a dramatic late equaliser to claim his hat-trick as Hibernian and Rangers shared ten goals in the Leith sunshine on Sunday afternoon, with the Easter Road side also registering their highest ever points tally in Scotland’s top-flight in the process, writes Richard Payne.
Few could have predicted how this game would turn out after the home side roared into an early 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Florian Kamberi, Scott Allan and Maclaren.
Yet, Rangers played their part and were level before half-time thanks to strikes from James Tavernier, Jordan Rossiter and Bruno Alves.
After the break Jason Holt and Josh Windass scored to give the visitors the lead however Hibernian stormed back with two Maclaren efforts either side of a red card for Holt to claim a thoroughly deserved share of the spoils.
Hibernian made three changes to their side with Dylan McGeouch, Vykintas Slivka and Maclaren restored to the starting line-up.
Anyone expecting a tepid end-of-season contest in Leith was mistaken as the hosts made a whirlwind start to the match.
Hibernian had already gone close through a Kamberi effort before they were awarded a penalty kick after only seven minutes when David Bates bundled over Maclaren.
Kamberi took the kick, sweeping it high into the Rangers net and sending Jak Alnwick the wrong way to notch his ninth since arriving on loan in January.
Rangers were shell-shocked and had no answer to their opponents in the opening stages, so it was no surprise when Hibernian doubled their advantage.
Lewis Stevenson swung a terrific cross to the back post where it was cushioned by the head of Slivka into the path of Allan who tapped home from close range.
Easter Road was rocking as the rampant home side continued to press forward and when Stevenson floated another delivery in moments later Maclaren guided a fantastic header beyond Alnwick to score Hibernian’s third.
Hibernian went close to a fourth goal when Steven Whittaker met a John McGinn corner kick delivery only to be denied by an Alnwick stop.
The goalkeeper quickly released the ball as Rangers stormed forward on the counter-attack and when Holt rolled the ball into the path of Tavernier he finished clinically to reduce arrears.
On 27 minutes Hibernian were again undone through the middle when Jamie Murphy threaded a fantastic ball through to Rossiter who drilled it low and into the far corner of the net, giving Ofir Marciano no chance.
Maclaren was almost in behind the Rangers rearguard when Slivka threaded the ball through however the Aussie striker took a heavy first touch and that allowed Bates to poke it away for a corner.
Seven minutes from half-time Rangers levelled after substitute Bruno Alves curled a stunning free-kick into the net from 25 yards.
It was role reversal from the opening stages with Hibernian now appearing vulnerable and Rangers carrying all the momentum.
There was time for one final opportunity in the first half and when Efe Ambrose was short with a headed pass back and Jason Cummings was onto it in a flash.
The former Hibernian striker took the ball round Marciano before shooting for goal only for Ambrose to recover and clear from the line.
Despite a positive start to the second half Hibernian fell behind for the first time this afternoon when Holt’s deflected effort found the far corner of the net.
Rangers were looking for a fifth goal in the hope of killing the game as a contest and would have had it had Marciano not produced two wonder saves, first to deny Murphy’s header and then Tavernier’s volley.
A fifth goal for Rangers wasn’t delayed long and again it was fortuitous as Holt’s shot took a wild deflection off substitute Windass to wrong foot Marciano and find the net.
That should have been it, but Neil Lennon’s men do not give up and almost immediately pulled one back when McGinn drove forward before finding Slivka; he slipped it into Maclaren who finished clinically.
A remarkable game continued to flow from end-to-end and with 13 minutes left Hibernian survived a real let-off when Whittaker appeared to handle before Darren McGregor cleared Murphy’s net-bound effort off the line.
With five minutes remaining Rangers were reduced to ten men when Holt pulled back McGinn as he broke forward and picked up his second caution of the afternoon.
In the final minute of normal time Alnwick produced a stunning stop to keep out McGeouch’s angled drive as Hibernian laid siege to the Rangers goal.
Easter Road erupted deep into time added on when Brandon Barker skipped away from Tavernier and his cross was turned into the Rangers net at the near post by Maclaren who completed his hat-trick.
An incredible 90 minutes of football to bring the curtain down after a fantastic campaign. Hibernian have now recorded their record top-flight league points total and done it in the most dramatic fashion possible. See you next season for more.
Hibernian: Marciano, Whittaker, Hanlon, McGinn, Slivka, McGeouch, Stevenson (Swanson 85’), Maclaren, Kamberi, S. Allan (Barker 64’), Ambrose (McGregor 69’). Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Gray, Bartley, L. Allan.
Rangers: Alnwick, Tavernier, Halliday, Rossiter (Hodson 67’), Candeias, Holt, Bates, Cummings (Windass 61’), Goss (Alves 27’), Murphy, Martin. Substitutes not used: Kelly, Herrera, O’Halloran, Docherty.
Referee: Andrew Dallas.