By: Hibernian Media on 15 Sep, 2018 17:45
Hibernian left it late before eventually seeing off Kilmarnock in a five-goal thriller at Easter Road Stadium on Saturday afternoon, writes Richard Payne.
Stevie Mallan and David Gray both scored early on as the Easter Road men raced into a two-goal lead before Kilmarnock fought back with Eamonn Brophy and Greg Stewart scoring before half-time to ensure parity after 45 breathless minutes.
The second half never quite reached the heights of the first, however it was the home side that did all the pressing.
Twelve minutes from time Flo Kamberi netted the winning goal from the penalty spot after Kirk Broadfoot had fouled Jamie Maclaren inside the box.
Neil Lennon made three changes to the side defeated by Livingston two weeks ago. Emerson Hyndman, Kamberi and Gray all returned to the starting XI.
New signing, Australian internationalist Mark Milligan, was listed amongst the substitutes and he was joined on the bench by Darren McGregor and Maclaren.
Kilmarnock were the first to threaten with former Rangers winger Chris Burke just off target with a curling effort after only six minutes.
It didn’t take long for the opening goal of the game to arrive it came via the foot of Hibernian’s dead-ball specialist, Mallan.
Martin Boyle was unceremoniously taken out on the edge of the Kilmarnock penalty box and from the freekick Mallan found the top-left corner of the net for his seventh goal of the campaign.
The visitors looked to level quickly and went close when Stewart produced a stunning solo run, weaving his way towards the edge of the Hibernian box before his left foot strike slammed into the side netting.
Hibernian extended their lead in the 23rd minute when Mallan’s corner kick was powerfully headed in to the net by skipper Gray.
The home side’s two-goal advantage lasted only four minutes as Kilmarnock’s Brophy brilliantly turned in a driven cross from Stephen O’Donnell with his heel to reduce arrears.
Play continued to flow from end-to-end as both teams served up a scintillating half of football to enthuse their respective sets of supporters.
As the half-time neared Hibernian went close to a third goal when Mallan’s shot on the turn from the edge of the box fizzed just wide of Jamie MacDonald’s near post.
Kilmarnock finished the halve strongly and it took a point-blank save from Bogdan to deny Brophy a second goal.
Three minutes later the visitors deservedly levelled as Stewart produced a fantastic left-foot finish to leave Adam Bogdan rooted to the spot.
Lennon replaced Boyle with Thomas Agyepong at the interval and the Easter Road men started the second period brightly.
The second half was only seconds old when Mallan let fly with a vicious shot from distance that MacDonald had to push round his post at the expense of a corner kick.
Hibernian continued to push forward with both Steven Whittaker and Agylepong having efforts at goal -although neither could test MacDonald.
With just under 20 minutes remaining the home side made a double change – bringing on Aussie duo Maclaren and Milligan.
Hibernian appeared the mostly likely to score and they should have don’t better when they broke away with 14 minutes remaining; Daryl Horgan drove forward before laying off to Kamberi only for the Swiss striker’s pass to be wasteful and allow Broadfoot to clear.
Sixty second later and Broadfoot was the villain after he bundled over MacLaren inside the penalty box and referee John Beaton pointed to the spot.
Kamberi took responsibility for the penalty kick and although MacDonald guessed correctly, he was unable to keep out the striker’s finish.
Kilmarnock’s reaction was to throw on Kris Boyd and Bright Enobakhare for the closing stages and they almost snatched a draw at the death with two late chances.
First, Brophy’s rising shot from the edge of the box was held comfortably by Bogdan, before the Hibernian keeper tipped a Boyd flicked on from an Allan Power over the crossbar and ensure his side took full points.
Hibernian: Bogdan, Gray, Whittaker (Milligan 71’), Horgan, Boyle (Agyepong 46’), Mallan, Stevenson, Hyndman (Maclaren 71’), Kamberi, Ambrose, Porteous. Substitutes not used: Laidlaw, Slivka, McGregor, Shaw.
Kilmarnock: MacDonald, O’Donnell, Taylor (K Boyd 81’), Broadfoot, Power, Jones, Findlay, Stewart (Byrne 73’), Brophy, Tshibola, Burke (Enobakhare 86’). Substitutes not used: Bachmann, Ndjoli, S. Boyd, Wilson.
Referee: John Beaton.