Hibernian defeated Andorran’s FC Santa Coloma 2-1 this evening - 5-1 on aggregate - to comfortably progress into the 3rd qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Hibs went into the match with a healthy first leg advantage and they would dominate the first half, passing up several opportunities and striking the crossbar with a fierce Kevin Nisbet strike.
After the break FC Santa Coloma came into it and stunned their opponents when Guillaume Lopez broke the deadlock with an angled drive.
The Andorran’s lead lasted only three minutes as Jamie Murphy took advantage of hesitation from goalkeeper Miguel Ramos to level.
Moments later the impressive Josh Campbell saw a wonderful curling effort strike the base of the post and substitute Daniel Mackay slotted into the unguarded net to give his side victory on the night.
Jack Ross made four changes from the side that defeated our opponents 3-0 in last week’s first leg encounter.
Jake Doyle-Hayes made his competitive debut, Kyle Magennis replaced the suspended Joe Newell in midfield, Josh Doig returned at the expense of Lewis Stevenson at full-back and youngster Campbell played just behind the front two.
Scott Allan was a notable absentee having not travelled with the squad as the visitors started brightly.
The match was only two minutes old when Magennis brought the ball down 20-yards from goal and from his lay-off Nisbet struck a fierce drive off the top of the crossbar.
Hibs, lining up in a 4-3-1-2 formation, settled quickly and were controlling the match. The Easter Road men were peppering the hosts’ goal as they looked for a goal to kill-off any comeback hopes Santa Coloma may have had.
Goalkeeper Ramos came to his side’s rescue in the 13th minute to save from Paul McGinn after the defender had held off his marker to get a shot away.
Campbell was looking lively and twice got into good positions on the right. His delivery from the first was across the face of goal, just out of the reach of Martin Boyle and Nisbet, before his second picked out the run of Doyle-Hayes and the Irishman headed just wide.
Doyle-Hayes was impressing in midfield and dictating play as Hibs continued to dominate the match.
On 25 minutes Campbell was brought down just outside of the Santa Coloma penalty box and from the free kick Ryan Porteous fired just over the crossbar.
With two-thirds of the Estadi Nacional now in shade, the temperature had cooled significantly and that suited the team in green as they continued to press for an opener.
Magennis was next to try his luck with a shot from the edge of the area that goalkeeper Ramos tipped over the crossbar.
The midfielder had another effort before half-time from a free kick that he drilled under the defensive wall only to once again be thwarted by Ramos.
There was little change to the pattern of play in the opening exchanges of the second half with Boyle doing brilliantly to rob a home defender of possession as he attempted to shepherd the ball out of play. The Australian attempted to cut the ball back to Nisbet for a tap-in only for Ramos to gather.
Hibs should have scored on 54 minutes when Magennis’ floated free kick was flicked on by Porteous to Paul Hanlon who, with the goal at his mercy, volleyed over the crossbar from close range.
Pressure continued to grow with the Easter Road men continuing to push for a breakthrough and went close when Nisbet gathered wide left before driving into the box and flashing a shot on the angle just wide of the far post.
Little had been seen of the hosts in the final third until the 58th minute when Xavier Puerto’s dink in behind the Hibs defence put David Rodriguez through on goal. As the Santa Coloma man set himself for a shot, he had the ball taken off his toes by a wonderful tackle from Magennis.
Seven minutes later Doig was slack in possession and allowed Marc Rebes to advance into the Hibs penalty box before squaring to Lopez, whose net-bound strike was kept out by a stunning save from Matt Macey low to his right.
From the resultant corner kick, Rebes’ header at the back post was again kept out by a fine save from Macey as the Andorran’s enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Hibs failed to heed the warning and on 69 minutes an angled drive from Lopez finally had the beating of Macey to give the hosts a shock lead.
It took Hibs only three minutes to find an equaliser as a long ball over the top saw Ramos hesitate and substitute Murphy took advantage of it to roll the beyond the goalkeeper who was stuck in no man’s land.
The goal settled Hibs again and they were soon back on the attack with Mackey forcing a save from Ramos from distance.
On 75 minutes Campbell produced a wonderful curling finish that beat Ramos only to strike the base of the post. With the goalkeeper on the turf, Mackay reacted quickest and slotted the ball into the unguarded net to score his first competitive goal for the club.
The former Inverness player could have added a quick-fire second goal when he got onto the end of Murphy’s cut-back, however he could not keep the ball down and the chance was gone.
In the closing moments Santa Coloma pressed for an equaliser with substitute Enric Pi forcing Macey into an acrobatic save before the Hibs goalkeeper saved bravely in a crowded penalty box after a powerful striker from Pedro Santos to keep his side ahead.
In time added on Mackay flashed a tantalising delivery across the face of goal, however there would be no further scoring as Hibs comfortably progressed into the next round.
FC Santa Coloma: Ramos, Torres (Pi 79’), Miranda, Santos, Cistero (Tizon 80’), Bianco, Rebes, Puerto, Virgili (Cervos 80’), Lopez, Rodriguez. Substitute not used: Benitez.
Hibernian: Macey, McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon (McGregor 72’), Doig, Magennis (Wright 81’), Gogic, Doyle-Hayes (Mackay 72’), Campbell, Boyle (Doidge 60’), Nisbet (Murphy 60’). Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Samson, Stevenson, Gullan, Brydon.
Referee: Alex Troleis (FRO).