Hibs Ladies put up a valiant effort but went down 4-1 to Slavia Prague in the first leg of their Champions League last-32 tie.
A Tereza Kozarova hat-trick and stunning strike from Andrea Jarchovska has left Grant Scott’s outfit with a tough task in the return leg, although they did take the lead through Siobhan Hunter at Easter Road.
Paul Heckingbottom and assistant Robbie Stockdale were keen observers in the West Stand, as was chief executive Leeann Dempster.
The home side were quickly in dreamland, scoring the opener inside two minutes. There were green-and-white jerseys queuing up to meet Rachael Boyle’s corner and there was defender Hunter to smash the ball into the net from just a couple of yards.
The sheer euphoria of scoring in Europe’s elite competition sparked delirium among the ten outfield players, goalkeeper Jenna Fife punching the air in delight as she also savoured the moment from inside her own half.
This was a group of players who had navigated their way through a gruelling three-match schedule in Slovenia last month just to reach the last 32. And didn’t they deserve their moment in the spotlight.
The hosts continued to press forward, Amy Gallacher giving full-back Deneisha Blackwood a torrid time down the right.
When Hibs weren’t in possession, they hunted in packs which seemed to unnerve Slavia who, for the majority of the first half, were limited to efforts from distance.
But the game was turned on its head ten minutes prior to the interval as Hibs conceded three times in seven minutes.
A ball through the heart of the defence saw Kozarova finish with aplomb before Chelsea Cornet was dispossessed just outside her own box and Petra Divisova crossed for Kozarova to lash home her second. And Jarchovska’s swerving strike from 25 yards just two minutes later left the home side shell-shocked.
However, Hibs were quick out of the traps in the second half, both Jamie Lee Napier and Boyle testing Olivie Lukasova in the visitors’ goal.
But Kozarova all but wrapped up her side’s place in the last 16 with an astute finish, firing high past Fife from 12 yards with under 15 to play.
Despite the final outcome, Hibs can draw on the positives in that they more than matched their opponents for long spells ahead of the return leg in the Czech capital in a fortnight.
Goalscorer Hunter said: “I think we’ve learnt a few lessons but I think 4-1 is harsh. I think three out of the four goals were our own mistakes but when the chances came their way they finished well. We’ve got nothing to lose out in Prague so we’ll be giving it our all.”