HIBERNIAN lived up to their pre-match tag of favourites to secure a place in the last four of the League Cup.
Some expressed surprise at a team from the Championship being so heavily favoured against a side from the Premiership. But Hibs more than justified that billing.
A goal after 20 minutes by David Gray and one just before the hour-mark by Jason Cummings, from the penalty spot, put the home team on easy street.
A rare goal by Lewis Stevenson that deflected into the net in the dying moments summed up an evening when everything went right for Hibs.
Alan Stubbs’ side are now back in the last four of a major competition, with the semi-final draw scheduled for Monday.
They look more than equipped to cope with this extra commitment as they seek to continue pressing leaders Rangers in the Championship.
Hibs were further cheered by Farid El Alagui’s first appearance of the season with five minutes left. It didn’t even matter when he miskicked in front of goal just moments later. James Keatings had already seen an effort bash off a post, further illustrating the extent to which Hibs were on top.
The more aggressive, competitive and determined Dundee United from Saturday disappeared as if into the swirling November mist. Unsurprisingly, Mixu Paatelainen retained faith in the side who had earned their first home league victory of the season against Ross County five days earlier.
But this was a step back towards their bad old ways. Hibs will not enjoy such dominance on too many occasions in their own league this season. To win so easily against a team from the division above means questions must again be asked of the visitors, who had to endure hearing “Olés” from the home fans from midway through the second half.
It is true that United do not need the further distraction of a cup semi-final as they battle to escape bottom place in the Premiership.
They certainly went the right way about ensuring they can cross one domestic cup competition off the list of obligations for the season.
The visitors were barely given the chance to settle. Hibs were at their throats like dogs in the wild from almost the very start.
Underlining the strength of Stubbs’ squad, the manager made two changes from the team that beat Rangers. Liam Fontaine came in for Darren McGregor, who dropped to the bench, while Keatings replaced the injured Dylan McGeouch.
Paul Hanlon, who scored Hibs’ winner on Sunday, retained his place at centre-half in his 250th appearance for the club.
He could afford to coast through the early stages as Hibs camped out in the United half.
The visitors’ cause was not helped by goalkeeper Michal Szromnik continually kicking the ball out of play, which simply handed Hibs back possession.
But, while Szromnik impressed no one with his distribution, he kept his side in the game in the first half.
The Pole was first called into action to touch past a shot by Keatings. Szromnik was able to count on help from Mark Durnan, his centre-half, who cleared the ball from Jason Cummings’ toes after a cut-back by Malonga. But he was not often able to rely on such assistance.
The goalkeeper had to do it all himself when brilliantly tipping a shot by Keatings over the bar. He did so at the expense of a corner, from which the goal that had been coming was sourced.
The corner was taken quickly to Fraser Fyvie, whose cross found Gray in the box, 12 yards out. Gray made a mockery of his right-back status by turning to whip a glorious strike into the bottom left-hand corner of Szromnik’s goal.
United looked a beleaguered, disenchanted group already. Even the shade of tangerine on the shirts they were wearing looked washed-out.
It was all a far cry from 12 months ago when the teams last met here at the same stage of the same competition.
Back then United had only recently vacated top spot in the Premiership.
Jackie McNamara was a bright, young and up-and-coming manager and all seemed good with the world. McNamara was yesterday unveiled as the new manager of York City. The team he has left behind look utterly bereft of ideas.
Paatelainen has tried his hardest to buck them up. But this latest capitulation was too much for the United fans to bear. Most had drifted off long before the final whistle.
Scott Fraser, one of their few bright spots, tried his best with some long-distance, off-target efforts. Little was coming off for Billy Mckay and Adam Taggart up front. But then they were getting precious little service.
The pattern of the game continued in the second half.
Hibs sealed the win with an expertly-taken penalty by Cummings after 59 minutes. Former Hibs midfielder John Rankin was perhaps harshly penalised for a handball after Cummings’ header had bashed against him.
But there was nothing harsh about the result, which was supplemented by Stevenson’s late, deflected drive into the corner of the net in the final minute.
HIBERNIAN: Oxley Gray, Fontaine, Hanlon, Stevenson, Keatings (Boyle 83), Fyvie, Henderson, McGinn (McGregor 68), Cummings, Malonga (El Alagui 86). Subs not used: Eckersley, Feruz, Carmichael, Reguero.
DUNDEE UNITED: Szromnik, Souttar, McGowan, Durnan, Dillon, Spittal, Rankin, Fraser, Kuhl (Murray 71), Taggart, McKay. Subs not used: Telfer, Connolly, Donaldson, Bodul,Robson,Zwick..