By: Hibernian Media on 08 Mar, 2019 23:05
Hibernian produced a battling performance to come from behind and draw with Rangers on Friday evening at Easter Road Stadium, writes Richard Payne.
It’s the third time this season the Leith and Govan men have shared the spoils and it came at the end of an incredible 90 minutes in Edinburgh.
Rangers enjoyed the better of the first period and went ahead through a stunning Daniel Candeias effort shortly before the interval.
Hibernian battled back and deservedly took a point from the match thanks to birthday boy Florian Kamberi who netted late on.
Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor performed heroics in the away goal and had it not been for him Hibernian would likely have picked up all three points.
The hosts played out the closing stages with ten men after Darren McGregor was red carded and Andy Halliday almost won it with the final kick of the game as his free-kick struck the crossbar.
Head Coach, Paul Heckingbottom, made just one change to the starting XI with Stevie Mallan returning to the side at the expense of Vykintas Slivka who missed out through suspension.
The match started at a frenetic pace with all the blood and thunder we have become accustomed to from this high-profile fixture.
The first real opportunity of the night fell the way of the visitors after Ryan Kent was afforded time and space on the left side of the home penalty box; the winger advanced before cutting back to Scott Arfield who struck a first-time effort that was almost certainly hitting the back the net had it not been for Mark Milligan’s last-gasp block.
At the other end Hibernian should have made more of an opportunity sixty seconds later when Mark McNulty cushioned a header down to Kamberi and the Swiss striker dragged his shot from 18 yards wide of goal.
Rangers should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Alfredo Morelos robbed Paul Hanlon of possession deep inside the Hibernian halve before racing clear, the normally prolific striker hesitated too long allowing Ofir Marciano to advance with the goalkeeper saving the eventual shot with his legs.
The visitors were on top and their intense pressing game was forcing the home side to make mistakes.
All too often Rangers were afforded too much time and space in the gap between the Hibernian defence and midfield. It led to opportunities for Arfield and Halliday although neither were able to test Marciano with their efforts.
Marciano was called into action soon after when Kent’s heavily defected strike was arching towards the bottom corner of the net before the Israeli internationalist got a strong left hand to keep the ball out.
Glen Kamara and Arfield both had further efforts blocked before Marciano took two attempts to hold a rasping shot from Morelos as Steven Gerrard’s side turned up the pressure.
Three minutes from the break Rangers deservedly moved ahead, however it came in controversial circumstances as Hibernian appeared to break clear on the right, the referee’s assistant put his flag up to signal offside and players from both sides stopped.
Referee Steven McLean waved play on and the delay allowed Rangers enough time regroup as Mallan’s shot was blocked before Kamberi was unable to catch the rebound and Rangers broke away on the counter-attack.
The visitors worked the ball down their right and although Candeias’ initial cross was blocked, the ball fell kindly for the Rangers man and second time around he curled a stunning finish into the far top corner to give his side the advantage.
The game continued at breakneck speed after the interval and Hibernian had an early chance to get back onto the match when they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Rangers box. Stevie Mallan took the set piece but disappointingly couldn’t beat the defensive wall.
Hibernian’s best chance of the night so far arrived in the 57th minute when McNulty broke away on the right before picking out Daryl Horgan in through the middle; the Irishman shot first time but couldn’t find a way past Allan McGregor who blocked before quickly getting to his feet to deny McNulty too.
With 21 minutes remaining the tenacious battling spirit of Arfield saw the Rangers midfielder pickpocket Hanlon before setting up Morelos who tamely fired wide of goal from an unmarked position.
Hibernian pushed for an equaliser and almost found one when Mallan’s shot from distance bounced up in front of Allan McGregor and the goalkeeper did brilliantly to push it around his near post at the expense of a corner kick.
Heckingbottom’s side deservedly levelled with 15 minutes remaining after Horgan found McNulty on the right of the penalty box, the striker looked up and picked out Kamberi at the back post who calmly slotted it away
Having battled so hard to level Hibernian almost fell behind again soon after when Kent’s cross from the left was met by the volley of Arfield who was inches away from restoring his side’s lead.
Most of the attacking opportunities were falling to the home side in the second half with goalkeeper McGregor in outstanding form. He beat away McNulty’s powerful strike at his near post after Horgan had once again unlocked the Gers defence.
With eight minutes remaining McGregor produced a stunning double save to deny Kamberi and Mallan as the hosts pressed for a winning goal.
Hibernian had to play the closing minutes with ten men after Darren McGregor picked up a second yellow card and subsequent red.
From the free-kick – the final kick of the game – Halliday almost snatched a winner with a terrific freekick that struck the top of the crossbar.
Hibernian: Marciano, Gray, Hanlon, Milligan, Horgan (Bartley 90’), McNulty, Mallan, Stevenson, Kamberi, McGregor, Omeonga. Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Bigirimana, Shaw, Murray, Mackie, Allan.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Worrall, Goldson, Jack, Kent, Halliday, Kamara, Morelos, Candeias, Arfield (Defoe 78’). Substitutes not used: Foderingham, Davis, Flanagan, McCrorie, Katic, Coulibaly.
Referee: Steven McLean.