By: Hibernian Media on 21 May, 2018 16:00
To celebrate Hibernian’s qualification for the UEFA Europa League, this week we will be publishing some historical content looking back on matches in European competition.
In the Hibernian FC Programme during the 2017/18 season, John Hislop, James Delaney and John Stephens all looked at different matches the Club have competed in during their continental campaigns in the feature ‘We’ve Played There’.
First up, we look back on the matches against KS Besa of Albania in 1972.
In the 1972/73 season the Hibernian team were in fine form, racking up high scores against some of the top sides in the country, and won the 1972 League Cup Final, defeating a strong Celtic team in the process.
They also extended their impressive goal scoring exploits into European competition, with Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon put to the sword in style at Easter Road Stadium in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
An emphatic 6-1 victory cancelled out a 2-1 defeat which was sustained in Lisbon, and Hibernian were rightly a team to be feared on the continent.
The Second Round of the competition paired Hibernian with a more unknown quantity; Albanian side Klubi Sportiv Besa Kavajë.
KS Besa, as they are more commonly known, are based in the city of Kavajë and have enjoyed moderate success in the Balkan country, and had finished as runners-up to the more prestigious Vllaznia Shkodër in the 1972 Albanian Cup Final.
Away goals had seen them emerge victorious against Fremad Amager of Denmark in the First Round, but they were not prepared for the intense attacking display from Hibernian in Leith.
A coruscating performance from Eddie Turnbull’s side saw them essentially claim their place in the quarterfinals, with KS Besa left shell-shocked as they shipped seven goals.
Hibernian teased and tormented the visiting side, before ripping the heart out of the plucky side in front of 22,293 supporters at Easter Road Stadium.
After 12 minutes Alex Cropley scored the opening goal as he smashed in a rebound after Alan Gordon had hit the bar. Two minutes had elapsed before it was 2-0 when Jimmy O’Rourke ghosted in to finish from inside the box.
In 12 second half minutes it went from 2-0 to 7-0, with O’Rourke kickstarting the devastating rout in the 52nd minute.
John Brownlie added the fourth goal before Arthur Duncan jinked his way past a few defenders and scored goal number five.
O’Rourke claimed his hat-trick on the hour mark to make it 6-0 and it was 7-0 in the 64th minute when Duncan scored with a long-range effort.
The Albanians did muster up enough courage to launch an attack and were rewarded when Muharrem Kariqi claimed a consolation goal.
With an unassailable 7-1 lead in the tie, the side headed out to Albania to face KS Besa at the Niko Dovana Stadium in the coastal town of Durres.
Unfortunately for Hibernian the second leg would not be as comfortable an affair as the first, largely due to environmental factors.
The switch of venue was out of the ordinary as KS Besa had played Fremad Amager at the Qemal Stafa Stadium in the capital city of Tirana in the First Round.
It was a larger stadium and more accustomed to hosting a professional football match, with the conditions in Durres slated by the official match delegate.
The pitch was labelled as one of the worst that the travelling party had ever encountered, a thick concrete kerb two inches from the touchline was deemed unsafe and the facilities for changing and washing were not suitable – all according to a report filed by the official UEFA observer, Giuseppe Adami.
The tightly-packed ground was at capacity with 15,000 locals showing up to support their team as they tried to achieve the impossible and turnaround the massive six goal deficit.
Whilst that did seem highly unlikely, the fans in the Niko Dovana Stadium remained vociferous throughout the entirety of the match.
Despite the largely uncomfortable surroundings, the Hibernian still pitched in and put on a good showing on the substandard playing surface in Eastern Europe.
The first half came and went with both sides trying in vain to string together passes on the bobbly pitch, but ultimately Turnbull’s side never looked like shipping several goals against their opposition.
Unfortunately for Turnbull, he was forced into a half-time change as the dependable Jim Herriot was replaced with Bobby Robertson after sustaining a leg injury during the first half proceedings.
This would turn out to be Robertson’s last outing for Hibernian, and oddly he never featured in a league game for the club, with three of his five appearances coming in Europe and two in the League Cup.
Despite being second-best for most of the tie, KS Besa really gave their supporters something to cheer about in the 54th minute of the tie in Durres when they snatched the lead.
Kujtim Pagria, an uncapped Albanian midfielder, was able to fire beyond substitute goalkeeper Robertson, ensuring the excitable fans erupted in a rapturous noise to celebrate.
The hosts were only ahead for six minutes though after playing without fear despite trailing in the match.
After a good move, Gordon smashed the ball beyond Haki Arkaxhiu from close range to level the match.
Even though Besa had fought hard from the first whistle, they were outclassed on the night of the game and were fortunate to have staved off more pressure from their Scottish visitors.
O’Rourke and Duncan both had chances to win the tie for Hibernian, but the best of them fell to Pat Stanton, but Arkaxhiu made a crucial intervention to deny him the winning goal – Hibernian having to settle for just the 8-2 aggregate victory.
Having navigated the 90 minutes in less-than hospitable conditions, the team were perhaps looking forward to their trip home – but even that was not a comfortable one.
With a gale force wind battering the East Coast of Scotland, the chartered plane was diverted to Glasgow Airport, but it had no ill effects on the weekend’s game as they defeated Greenock Morton 3-0 at Cappielow.
As featured in Issue 12 of the Hibernian FC Programme on Sunday 10 December 2017 for the match against Celtic. Written by John Stephens.