HIBS went into this match itching to give their supporters something to smile about after a 2-1 derby defeat at home to Hearts.
Dundee United 1-2 Hibs - March 23, 2002
And they did so at Tannadice courtesy of goals from Freddy Arpinon and Garry O’Connor.
United came close to opening the scoring after just eight minutes when Steven Thompson headed David Winters’ free kick against Tony Caig’s post.
Hibs were struggling to make much of an impression, but all they had to offer in return was a Craig Brewster shot which never looked like threatening United goalkeeper Paul Gallacher.
However, Bobby Williamson’s side did go close to snatching the lead after 20 minutes as a kick-out from Caig found Ulises de la Cruz on the right.
He skipped past the challenge of David McCracken before delivering a tempting cross to the back post where Garry O’Connor rose to power in a tremendous header. Gallacher, however, showed why he was also in then Scotland boss Berti Vogts’s plans with a terrific save, pushing the ball high into the air.
A through pass from Freddy Arpinon caused problems for United as McCracken misjudged the ball, forcing his keeper to race from his area to confront De la Cruz before the South American could capitalise.
In doing so, Gallacher picked up a knock to his right leg and required a lengthy spell of treatment before continuing.
United’s Jim Lauchlan was lucky to escape without a booking after knocking the ball away as Hibs prepared to take a quick free-kick against a short-handed United defence, Matthias Jack making his view clear as he went face-to-face with the Tayside defender.
After their shaky start to the match, Hibs had managed to gain a foothold, although United went close in the 34th minute as Tassos Venetis got up to meet Stuart Duff’s header from the right.
But Caig, determined to use this opportunity – only his fifth start of the season – to lay claim to the No.1 slot at Easter Road, threw himself high to his right to claw the ball away.
Hibs made the most of that escape as they took the lead in spectacular style through Arpinon three minutes later. Jack was fouled but managed to lay the ball off to De la Cruz who looked up before picking out the French ace on the edge of the United penalty area. From there Arpinon did the rest, firing a terrific right-foot volley past the bemused Gallacher and into the net for his first goal in a Hibs jersey.
Hibs maintained control in the second half, playing disciplined, organised football and they doubled their advantage after 73 minutes, after O’Connor’s shot was deflected past Gallacher from the edge of the box.
The young Hibs striker played a one-two with Paco Luna and unleashed a shot that Lauchlan tried a block and the ball spun off his leg and into the net.
Hibs’ composure was soon to evaporate when United pulled a goal back three minutes later, though, when Thompson connected with a Stuart Duff cross as the Hibs defence were guilty of ball-watching.
A frantic quarter of an hour followed as United bombarded the Hibs goal, but both Gary Caldwell and goalkeeper Caig kept their cool to ensure Hibs held on to their lead.