How Hibs survived farcical theatrics from Santa Coloma to take strong lead to Andorra
The first competitive game of the season, the first with fans for more than a year and the first European tie since 2018, this was supposed to be a night of celebration against a team that lacked the pedigree of their hosts.
But, even in victory, it was an evening of frustration and drama as Icelandic referee Vilhjalmar Thorarinsson negatively influenced the action and the Andorran part-timers served up clues as to their secondary careers, with acting the increasingly-obvious suggestion.
If that is the case, on this evidence, they specialise in farce.
Hibs managed to chalk up a 3-0 win and, while they will take nothing for granted in the away leg next week, there would appear little for them to worry about other than poor refereeing.
It was an education in keeping their head when others are losing theirs and a reminder that when flying into challenges, there is a need to adapt to the greater sensibilities of European football.
Learning that lesson so early in what they hope will be a prolonged campaign could prove useful. But it will not eradicate the sense of injustice felt by Joe Newell and Scott Allan, who had his involvement curtailed as he was sacrificed for the banished Englishman’s replacement, Kyle Magennis.
It will also do little to ease the frustration that the tie was not fully put to bed, as it looked like it would be before the theatrics and the cards started flying and the game descended into pantomime as goals were chalked off and the crowd aired their dissent.
Hibs looked at ease in the early period as they probed. Middle to front they were in control, with the wide men, Daniel Mackay and Martin Boyle along with Scott Allan in his central berth, linking up with Kevin Nisbet.
Behind them Newell and Alex Gogic looked in the mood and Santa Coloma were finding it difficult to contain them.
After a season curtailed by illness, Allan proved he still has that ability to excite the home support and even when surrounded by four opponents, rumbles reverberated around the stadium.
When the inevitable Hibs goal did come, that too was laced with farce as the visiting keeper Miguel Angel Ramos flapped at a Newell corner and then scampered off in a crazy pursuit to the edge of his area in an attempt to clear before Nisbet could punish him. It ended with the pair in a heap and the referee pointing to the spot.
That was the 13th minute and Martin Boyle scored low into the net.
The visitors were beginning to break up the game with fouls and niggles and although they picked up bookings at that stage, it was Newell who was the first to be sent off.
In the 30th minute he went to ground but there astonishment as after some theatrics from Robert Ramos Isus, he was shown a straight red.
That knocked Hibs for a while, as they adjusted to the loss of Newell and the creative input from Allan. But the came out in the second half determined to channel their frustrations and Boyle doubled the lead in the 47th minute with an angled shot.
Then there was a quick one-two of red cards for the away side as Hamza Ryahi and then the pantomime villain himself, Ramos were dispatched.
Nisbet wrapped up the scoring in the 81st minute. Hibs will hope the second leg is less eventful next week.