Hibernian will take a three-goal cushion into the return leg against FC Santa Coloma next week after an incredible 90 minutes at Easter Road.
Martin Boyle scored twice and Kevin Nisbet notched the other during a match that had everything.
Three goals, two further efforts chalked off, a penalty, three red cards and lots of chances kept the 4,700 crowd on the edge of their seats all night.
Hibs were thoroughly deserving of their commanding victory after a performance that was even more impressive considering they played for over an hour with ten men after Joe Newell’s harsh red card.
Albert Jorquera’s side ended the match with nine men after Hamza Ryahi and Robert Ramos were ordered off late in the game.
Jack Ross handed Daniel Mackay his competitive debut this evening where he was one of three changes to the side that concluded the club’s pre-season campaign at Raith Rovers last week.
Josh Doig, Kyle Magennis and Steven Bradley made way for Lewis Stevenson, Alex Gogic and Mackay for Hibs opening fixture of the season.
A vociferous welcome greeted the teams from the near five thousand in attendance as they took to the field with talisman, Scott Allan, making his first start in almost a year.
The Easter Road men started the match as brightly as the sun shone on Easter Road as they penned the Andorran’s back in the opening exchanges.
Boyle carved out the first opportunity with a terrific run that saw him dance clear of Alex Cistero and David Virgili on the right before driving a low delivery across the face of goal that was just out of Kevin Nisbet’s reach.
A snap-shot from Alex Gogic brought Santa Coloma goalkeeper, Miguel Ramos, into action for the first time before a whipped delivery from Allan was headed just wide by Nisbet.
Then, a moment of madness from Ramos, saw Hibs awarded a penalty kick. The Santa Coloma goalkeeper had done well to push away a Hibs corner kick however, instead of allowing his defence to complete the clearance, he made the bizarre decision to chase the ball down and bundled over Nisbet on the edge of the box.
It earned the goalkeeper a yellow card and Hibs a gilt-edged opportunity to make an early breakthrough. Boyle took the kick and although Ramos guessed correctly, he was unable to keep out the powerful finish.
It was one-way traffic with Hibs going close to doubling their advantage on 21 minutes when Allan’s free kick picked out Paul Hanlon and the skipper’s looping header back across goal dropped just wide of the far post.
Then, on 29 minutes, a moment of controversy saw Hibs reduced to ten men when Newell slid in to block a clearance from Robert Ramos. There appeared to be no contact with the Santa Coloma defender who hit the turf and few inside Easter Road could believe their eyes when a straight red card was produced.
Within seconds of play resuming Hibs could have increased their lead when Allan’s quick thinking released Boyle in behind and although he took the ball round goalkeeper Ramos, the angle was too tight, and his shot was off target.
To counter the loss of Newell, Hibs withdrew the unfortunate Allan and replaced him with Kyle Magennis.
Shocked at going down to ten men, Hibs lost their composure a little and that allowed the visitors back into the match.
They went close when Xavier Puerto’s lay-off found Juanma Torres on the edge of the home box and his arched finish was just wide of the far post with Matt Macey beaten.
Three minutes later the visitors attacked on the other side with Cistero getting beyond Paul McGinn and his near post delivery was stabbed just wide by Guillaume Lopez as Santa Coloma again went close.
The interval perhaps came at a good time for Hibs, allowing them time to regroup and calm frustrations that threaten to boil over.
Drey Wright replaced Mackay for the second half and within seconds of the restart Hibs had scored as Boyle evaded a challenge before driving forward and finding the far corner of the net from the edge of the box – via a deflection.
The relief around Easter Road was palpable as Boyle’s second of the evening gave Hibs much-needed breathing space.
Whilst it calmed the nerves of the home side it had the opposite effect on the Santa Coloma players with Juanma Miranda guilty of a wild lunge on Boyle.
The Hibs man was on the end of some rough treatment this evening and on 65 minutes his sensational run through on goal was ended by a cynical, last-man challenge from Ryahi that earned the defender a straight red card.
Hibs peppered the visitors’ goal with a Nisbet free kick deflected just wide, Ryan Porteous heading over from a corner kick and Gogic’s shot from 30 yards drifting over the top.
With 19 minutes remaining the Andorran’s were reduced to nine men after Robert Ramos’s poor challenge on Nisbet. The defender picked up a second yellow card, and subsequent red to earn himself an early bath.
Hibs should have extended their lead when Wright’s inch-perfect cross found Porteous arriving unmarked in the penalty box, however the defender could not keep his header down.
In the moments that followed Hibs twice had the ball in the back of the net – through Porteous and Nisbet – only to have both efforts chalked off harshly.
A third Hibs goal was only delayed momentarily and arrived from the feet of Nisbet, who showed great technique to make space for a shot before guiding it into the far corner.
At the death Gogic almost grabbed a fourth with a diving header that skimmed the post, however three was enough in the end to give Hibs a commanding lead to take into the return leg.
Hibernian: Macey, Hanlon, Porteous, McGinn, Boyle (Campbell 87’), Newell, Gogic, Nisbet (Doidge 84’), Stevenson, Mackay (Wright 46’), Allan (Magennis 30’). Substitutes not used: Dabrowski, Samson, Doig, Gullan, McGregor, Bradley, Brydon
FC Santa Coloma: M. Ramos, R. Ramos, Miranda, Lopez (Tizon 90’), Cistero, Santos, Puerto (Pi 77’), Ryahi, Blanco (Rodriguez 77’), Virgili (A. Ramos 73’), Torres. Substitutes not used: Benitez, Rodriguez
Referee: Vilhjalmur Thorarinsson
Living in Scotland it’s common to get hit with all 4 season in one day, often turning into roofing nightmares. At Ronald Graham Roofing & Building, we pride ourselves on our top quality workmanship. Having been in business now for Edinburgh for over 35 years, covering Aberdeen to London and everywhere in between. We work with commercial, residential and industrial clients and have worked on the roofs of schools, hospitals, hotels and lots of the UK’s historic buildings. Alongside this we offer affordable maintenance programmes to ensure that your roof never ends up in a poor state of repair. For Ronald Graham Roofing, no job is too big or too small, we are big enough to cope, small enough to care.
For further info, you can call 0131 555 5121 or click here to enquire online.
MATCH BALL SPONSOR
Thanks to our match ball sponsor, the club’s long-standing waste partners, Environmental Waste Controls.
EWC is a multiple award winning waste and recycling management company providing cost-effective waste and recycling solutions, making best use of compaction and segregation at source for all clients in the private and public sectors.
With a strong commitment to customers and the community, and an excellent track record in protecting and enhancing the environment, EWC have played a huge role in positioning Hibernian FC as ‘The Greenest Club in Scotland’. We’re committed to ensuring we are leading the way in terms of environmental sustainability in Scottish football and EWC are a key part in helping the club continue to meet these environmental objectives.
EWC help to avoid landfill, reduce waste and offer sustainable recycling solutions to anybody that needs them. Visit https://myewc.com/ for more information on how they can help your business.