ROWAN VINE today warned Malmo that their place in the third qualifying round of the Europa League is far from safe, promising the Swedes they will face a maelstrom at Easter Road next Thursday.
Although Pat Fenlon’s side trail by two goals going into the second leg, hitman Vine insisted they can overcome that deficit, particularly if the Hibs fans turn out to roar them on.
Vine conceded that the tie could easily have been well beyond him and his team-mates as Malmo hit them with two goals in three minutes early in the first half – a stunning free-kick by Swedish captain Jiloan Hamad followed by a Magnus Eriksson strike.
Thereafter, only a string of stunning saves by goalkeeper Ben Williams prevented Hibs from losing far more heavily, leaving Fenlon’s players wit some measure of hope, but the former St Johnstone star also claimed that the tables could easily have been turned, pointing to an early header which fellow new boy Owain Tudur Jones powered over the bar, while he saw a snapshot drift over the head of startled Malmo goalkeeper Johan Dahlin, only for the woodwork to deny Hibs a vital away goal.
He said: “You look up at that big scoreboard and see you are 2-0 down with only 13 minutes to play and it’s hard to know what to do. You have your game plan, but you know if you concede again, you are more or less out.
“Football, though, is all about fine margins. We started brightly. Owain had that chance, then we are hit on the counter attack. I thought we were unlucky at the free-kick in the first place, but the boy executed it well. Then we gave the ball away and were another goal down. However, we were unlucky again with my shot. It took a deflection, but [it] still looked as if it was going in all the way. Another half inch to the left and it would have clipped the post and gone in rather than coming back out.
“So it could have been 2-1 quite early in the game and an away goal would have put a different complexion on things right away. Big Ben pulled off a few great saves, there were a few last-ditch tackles and they hit the bar, but the big thing wasn’t to lose a third goal, no matter how we did it.
“We’d have said we were hard done by had we found ourselves three or four down and had it been that, we’d be out. Instead, we have a degree of hope. It’s only half-time and if we can get an early goal at Easter Road, that will put the pressure on them.
“I think there were even signs of that last night. We kept battling away had a couple of wee chances and they were retreating, knowing the danger of losing an away goal.
“We’ll also benefit from 90 minutes of competitive football so we’ll be better equipped, while the fans have a big part to play. There were 600 or 700 there last night but it sounded like 7000 – along with the Malmo supporters they created a fantastic atmosphere. If they turn out next week and we nick an early goal, the place will be rocking and we’ll see how they react.”