It was bitter disappointment for Hibs at Hampden Park as Bojan Miovski’s sucker-punch saw Aberdeen snatch victory to knock us out of the Viaplay Cup.
The result was a hard one to take after the Hibees had dominated the match for long spells but could not find the goals that would take us through.
We had several good opportunities throughout the 90 minutes and had a goal chalked off by VAR following an incredibly tight call on Martin Boyle’s effort early in the second half.
But Aberdeen hung in there and even when they went down to ten men following Jack MacKenzie’s silly red card, they never gave up and snatched a winner through Miovski with 13 minutes remaining.
Nick Montgomery made four changes to his starting XI from the side that faced Ross County in midweek with David Marshall, Jordan Obita, Joe Newell and Boyle all returning to the starting XI.
Jimmy Jeggo and Adam Le Fondre missed out through injury, however this was partially offset up the return of Christian Doidge who took him place on a bench balanced with youth and experience.
Joe Newell once again led the boys out as the match started at a frantic pace with the opening exchanges witnessing several misplaced passes from both teams.
Our pace down the flanks is a real asset and we tried to make the most of it as we broke with pace and purpose.
As early as the eighth minute it posed Aberdeen problems as Boyle broke, playing the ball to Elie Youan who tried to return the favour; Connor Barron slid in to try and intercept the pass but very nearly turned it into his own goal as his block looped over the stranded Kelle Roos and just wide of goal.
From the resultant corner kick Dylan Vente found Youan in space but he could only scoop his effort over the crossbar from close range.
It took Aberdeen 23 minutes to register an effort at goal however they really should have scored from it. Miovski got in behind our defence on the right before squaring to Graeme Shinnie who failed to make a clean connection and dragged his shot across goal from eight yards out.
We remained a potent threat on the counter and had another opportunity when Boyle raced in behind MacKenzie and from a tight angle his shot was deflected wide for yet another corner kick.
From the set-piece, Rocky’s knock down was volleyed by Newell and although his strike was going well wide it deflected off the back of Vente and almost wrongfooted Roos, who would’ve been relieved to see it flash just wide of goal.
Ten minutes before the interval Newell drove inside off the left flank and tried to curl a low right foot shot beyond Roos however he failed to get enough whip on the ball and the goalkeeper gathered comfortably.
Aberdeen finished the first half on top without really testing Marshall in our goal. The Dons did have a free-kick on the edge of the box following a clumsy challenge from Rocky on Miovski only for Leighton Clarkson to slam the dead ball into the defensive wall.
We started the second half on the front foot and opened up Aberdeen inside the first minute when Lewis Miller stole in behind MacKenzie and from his low cross Nicky Devlin had to turn it behind from just in front of goal as Jair lurked at the back post.
Following the corner kick we kept the ball alive and from Newell’s floated delivery Vente glanced a header just wide.
Three minutes into the second half we had the ball in Aberdeen’s net as Boyle latched onto a ball over the top from Will Fish before bringing it down and firing past Roos.
The goal however wouldn’t stand and was chalked off for a marginal offside after a lengthy VAR check.
The time taken to make the decision certainly impacted our early momentum however we were soon back on the attack with Jair leaving Richard Jensen in his wake before being denied by Roos at his near post.
Then, another big call from the match officials as Roos failed to hold onto a fairly innocuous ball and Vente appeared to get there first before being taken down.
Despite our vociferous appeals the referee was unmoved.
On 65 minutes, a pacy attack down our right saw Youan’s cut back find Vente and his shot from 12 yards was blocked by Devlin just in front of goal with the ricochet off the defender’s chest looping across goal and wide of the far post.
With sixteen minutes remaining, Aberdeen were reduced to ten men when MacKenzie pushed Miller off the ball in full view of the referee and earned himself a second yellow card and an early bath.
We may have held a one-man advantage however Aberdeen would quickly hold a one-goal lead as Shinnie released Miovski following our corner and he raced away before finishing clinically into the far corner of Marshall’s goal.
We tried to respond quickly and very nearly did with Youan denied only by a stunning last-gasp block by Jensen as he attempted to pull the trigger.
With no option now but to commit players forward we were nearly picked off again when Miovski got beyond Fish before attempting to dink his shot over Marshall - only to get it horribly wrong and waste the gilt-edged opportunity.
We pushed hard in the closing stages and finished the match with two 16-year-olds in our side – Rory Whittaker and Josh Landers - the latter making his senior debut for Hibernian FC.
There was seven minutes of added time however the closest we came was a Doidge header that dropped just wide of the far post and Aberdeen held on.
Hibernian: Marshall, Miller (Whittaker 81’), Fish, Levitt, Youan, Vente (Campbell 85’), Boyle (Landers 85’), Newell, Obita, Jair (Doidge 81’), Rocky. Substitutes not used: Wollacott, Hanlon, Stevenson, Delferriere, Campbell, Molotnnikov, Landers.
Aberdeen: Ross, Devlin, MacKenzie, Shinnie, Jensen, Gartenmann, McGrath, Barron (Polvara 65’), Miovski (Sokler 91’), Clarkson, Rubezic. Substitutes not used: Doohan, Duk, Gueye, Hayes, Duncan, MacDonald, Milnes.
Referee: John Beaton.