Hibernian fights to save Europa League qualifier draw against Rijeka

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So much for being a long ball team! Hibernian hits back at Rijeka boss’ ‘uneducated’ stereotype to save Europa League qualifying draw … and boss Jack Ross says his side will have NO fear for second leg in Croatia

  • Hibernian must thank Martin Boyle for saving draw against HNK Rijeka
  • Jack Ross’ side was called a long ball in construction team by Rijeka boss
  • The Edinburgh-based team had flair at Easter Road but allowed an away goal
  • Ross believes his side will have no fear heading into next week’s Croatia second leg











Enraged by Rijeka manager Goram Tomic’s “uneducated” stereotype that the Hibs are a “long ball” team, Jack Ross saw his entertaining team prove they were anything but.

However, in an otherwise excellent performance against the leaders of the Croatian league, the Easter Road boss wasted plenty of opportunities – especially a late miss from Dan Mackay – to take a decent lead in the second leg.

But there was still cause for optimism before the return to Stadion HNK Rijeka next Thursday evening.

Most notably in the way Hibs opened up his gifted opponents so steadily and in the way they dealt with the delay against the run of the game.

Martin Boyle howled with joy after collecting a draw for Hibernian at Easter Road

The forward was on hand to shoot in a crucial equalizer in their Conference Europa League draw

The forward was on hand to shoot in a crucial equalizer in their Conference Europa League draw

Hit by a classic European punch during the counterattack, the Edinburgh squad could have fallen apart when Prince Ampen led the visitors in the lead.

But the arrival of Martin Boyle ensured parity and a play-off draw against the Irish Bohemians winners and Greece’s PAOK are certainly not looking past them.

“It’s a weird feeling not to win the first leg, but it would be very difficult to complain about any part of the performance,” said Ross.

“I thought we were excellent. The only frustration is the end result because I felt we deserved to win the game.

Prince Ampen led the visitors in the lead in a first blow to a well-supported Hibernian

Prince Ampen led the visitors in the lead in a first blow to a well-supported Hibernian

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER NOTES

HIBERNIAN (4-4-2): Macey 6; McGinn 6, Porteous 7, Hanlon 7, Stevenson 7; Magennis 6 (Allan 81), Newell 6 (Gogic 81), Doyle-Hayes 7, Murphy 6 (Doidge 63); Nisbet 6 (Mackay 81), Boyle 7.

Unused subscribers: Dabrowski, Samson, Doig, Wright, Gullan, McGregor, Campbell, Brydon.

Reserve: Stevenson.

RIJEKA (3-4-3): Labrovic 7; Escoval 6, Galovic 6, Smolcic 6; Tomecak 6, Pavicic 6 (Obregon 90), Liber 6, Vukcevic 6 (Kresic 80); Ampem 7 (Muric 62), Drmic 6 (Lepinjica 90), Issah 6.

Unused subscribers: Prskalo, Frigan, Braut, Velkovski, Cerin, Selahi.

Reserve: Issah, Vukcevic, Smolcic.

Arbitrator: Juan Munuera (Spain).

Presence: 5,600.

“I think Dan’s luck is good. It was a great chance. Dan is a young man who can be tough on himself for not taking risks, but he’s getting some good positions and he just needs to keep doing it.

“This luck attracts attention given the stadium of the match, but during the match we had a lot of good opportunities.

“But I was delighted with our level of performance and I want players to use it as a barometer. We will travel next week with confidence and belief that we can win the draw.

“I think we have shown with our level of performance that we are a good team and that we carry a threat.

“I expect us to do that in Croatia as well. “

Hibs’ first chance came when Paul McGinn placed a dangerous shot on Boyle’s way into the box and his shot was saved well by Labrovic.

The Hibs winger’s second effort appeared to have hit Nino Galovic’s arm, but Spain’s referee Juan Martinez Munuera disagreed.

Next to try his luck was Jamie Murphy at 18 yards, but his tame effort posed no problem for Labrovic.

But the best chance of the game so far came when Boyle put Nisbet in the box. The Hibs forward should have scored but shot directly at a grateful Labrovic.

At the other end, Macy made his first save to stop Andrija Vukcevic’s shot from a tight angle.

Hibs was on the verge of making the breakthrough three minutes into the half when Boyle spotted Lewis Stevenson’s run to the left. The veteran’s powerful strike beat Labrovic but retreated from the right post.

After the break, Murphy’s shot from the edge of the box dives just above the bar.

Then Boyle found the side net with a lightning practice after his pace put him behind Rijeka’s defense.

Then Easter Road screamed for a penalty when Boyle fell into the box under the attentions of captain Hrvoje Smolcic, only for Martinez Munuera to signal to continue playing.

And disaster struck when, in a rare attack from Rijeka, Vukcevic’s left-wing cross passed Macey at close range by the dangerous Ampem.

Hibs boss Jack Ross (right) is confident his side will show no fear in the second leg in Croatia

Hibs boss Jack Ross (right) is confident his side will show no fear in the second leg in Croatia

But Hibs showed his courage to retaliate within six minutes when Nisbet’s effort was saved by Labrovic, but the ball fell gently on Boyle who guided him home to the far post.

Hibs did his best to gain the advantage over Croatia, but his best chance was wasted by substitute Mackay who shot well but shot directly at Labrovic.

Ross subsequently confirmed Josh Doig would return to the squad after interest in the £ 4million valued left-back from Burnley and Watford – among others – failed to result in a concrete offer.

He said: “I tried to be pretty blunt in my explanation of the situation and I will do it again. We were very strongly led to believe that things were going to move quickly. They didn’t and if (those involved) don’t walk as they talk to talk, we will take control of the situation back.

“From now on Josh will be on my team unless something changes. It’s all about Josh showing his form and getting back to the squad.

After this Easter Road draw, Rijeka boss Tomic has supported his players to be better next Thursday.

He said: “The game is still open but we can improve in all aspects of football. Hibs are a good team and it will be difficult, but we will be in front of our own fans and I think we can pass.

If Hibs does manage to qualify, he will face the winners Irish Bohemians and PAOK Greece.

If Hibs does manage to qualify, he will face the winners Irish Bohemians and PAOK Greece.

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