IF YOU were in the mood to be generous, it might be possible to speculate that the emotion surrounding the evening did Hibernian few favours.
Scorers: Malmo - Eriksson (21), Forsberg (26), Halsti (30), Albornoz (41), Rantie (61), Hamad (65), Kron (72)
Bookings: Hibs - Hanlon, Taiwo, Thomson, Vine; Malmo - Albornoz
However, in falling so heavily to their Swedish conquerors the Easter Road side were unable to mount even the second-half rally that could have earned the hosts a measure of pride.
It became patently obvious very quickly that Pat Fenlon’s side lacked the inspiration and genuine class to stage the comeback that they desperately hoped could toast the memory of the late Lawrie Reilly, the club’s legendary striker who died earlier this week. In the end, Hibs fell to a sadly historic record defeat, one which eclipsed even the 6-0 reversal inflicted by AS Roma in a Fairs Cup play-off game in 1960-61. There will be an inquest into how a team who had looked content to hold on to what they had in the form of a 2-0 first-leg lead could be 3-0 up before the half hour mark. Hibs conceded three times in ten catastrophic minutes to slip out of Europe in miserable and frankly embarrassing fashion. After Malmo added a fourth before half-time to leave Hibs trailing 0-6 on aggregate, it was admirable that as many stayed to watch the second half as did. The way the evening unstitched was particularly lamentable given that so many home supporters had been encouraged to attend, and take part in the rousing minute’s applause in memory of Reilly before the match.
Remarkably, it could have been a lot worse for Hibs. Malmo hit the post in the first half, while goalkeeper Ben Williams also made a fine save with his legs as Malmo ran amok, after what had been a quietly promising opening from the hosts.
This was a chastening evening for the home supporters. Long before the end Hibs fans were willing the haar to roll in further from the sea and swallow them all up. Already up against it, Fenlon’s side were made to suffer anew by the clinical Swedes. Magnus Eriksson set the visitors on their way after 20 minutes and then Emil Forsberg, a goalscorer in the first game, extinguished what little hope Hibs had left with a second goal just five minutes later. On 29 minutes, a third goal arrived, from Markus Halsti. Miiko Albornoz scored a fourth four minutes from half-time as Hibs teetered on the edge of all-out collapse – if that hadn’t already taken place.
Hibs’ game plan involved getting the ball to Alex Harris as quickly and as often as possible, though this was easier said than done given that Malmo were so comfortable in possession. They were also strong. Danny Handling is no shrinking violet and get he was shoulder-barged to the turf by tall centre half Erik Johansson, who was intent on delivering a message to his younger opposite man.
To Handling’s credit, he simply picked himself up and got on with the game, leaving others to making rather forlorn claims for a foul. But it set the tone for the game as Malmo bullied their opponents into submission with a combination of brute strength and superior talent and fitness. Tom Taiwo did well to slide in and clip the ball away from Eriksson as he was in the act of shooting on six minutes, while Hibs were also relieved to see Halsti’s header go wide of the post from a corner. These were clear danger signs, but no-one could predict the extent to which Malmo imposed their authority on the proceedings.
Indeed, Hibs came close to opening the scoring themselves after only minutes when Jordon Forster’s header from Liam Craig’s corner flashed by a post. He knows he could and should have done better, and had Hibs established a 1-0 lead here then it is possible to wonder what might have been avoided?
We will never know now, and on the evidence of what followed, there was precious little to base an argument that the home side could have defended a lead, never mind built on it. The tie was effectively over as a contest after 20 minutes, when Eriksson struck the first away goal for the visitors, not that this was now a relevant concept. Rantie did well to progress down the left and when he cut back the ball for Eriksson, the striker wrong-footed goalkeeper Ben Williams with a slightly mis-hit shot into the ground.
It signalled a remarkably frantic period, when Malmo feasted on Hibs’ deficiencies in defence. Before this, Rowan Vine was denied an equaliser by the linesman’s flag, but it was a correct call. Rantie then scorned an excellent chance to make it 2-0, although Williams has to be given credit on a painful night for him when he blocked with his legs.
Hibs were further disrupted when skipper James McPake was forced to withdraw through injury, to be replaced by the former Hearts defender Fraser Mullen.
A minute later the irrepressible Eriksson smashed a shot off the post, before Forsberg made it 2-0 after a neat one-two on the edge of the box with Simon Thern. Only 25 minutes had elapsed. Just before the half hour mark, Halsti steered a sweet left-foot effort from the edge of the box past Williams after a clever lay-off from Hamad.
Another left-footed effort, this time from Albornoz, flew past Williams and crashed into the net off a post after 41 minutes.
Hibs were powerless to stem the flood of goals in the second half. Scott Robertson replaced Tom Taiwo shortly after the interval but it was like re-arranging the deck chairs on a doomed ocean liner. Malmo scored a fifth on the night just five minutes later, after Williams spilled Hamad’s shot, and Rantie got the goal he deserved. Hamad then made it six to after 64 minutes directly from a free-kick after a Paul Hanlon foul on Rantie.
And then, in a wounding finale, came the seventh and last swipe of the sword, as substitute Simon Kroon made it 0-7 – a significant scoreline in the club’s annals, but one that now has to occupy a dark corner in Hibs’
Hibernian: Williams; Stevenson, McPake, Forster, Hanlon; Harris, Taiwo, Thomson, Craig; Handling: Vine. Subs: Mullen for McPake (24), Robertson for Taiwo (54), Stanton (74). Subs not used: Murdoch, Tudur Jones, Caldwell, Horribine.
Malmo: Dahlin; Albornoz, Jansson, Johansson, Ricardhinho; Hamad, Halsi, Thern, Forsberg; Eriksson, Rantie. Subs: Kroon for Forsberg (46), Cibicki (59). Subs not used: Olsen, Konate, Helander, Friberg, Fadi.