There was no shortage of talking points at Easter Road last night as Hibs hauled back a two-goal deficit to record a 3-2 win over Asteras Tripolis
Adam Bogdan wasn’t totally at fault for Georgios Kyriakopolous’ opener, but the Hungarian ‘keeper didn’t cover himself in glory, allowing the ball to cannon off him and into the net.
Questions could also be asked of his attempt at the second Asteras goal; a speculative effort from distance that sneaked in off the same post.
He did make a couple of good saves in the second 45 although he wasn’t troubled as much as he might have been as the Greeks seemed to tire as the match wore on.
Although Ofir Marciano has his moments, you sense the Hibs defence will feel more comfortable once the big Israeli returns from injury, especially with Neil Lennon seemingly unconvinced by Ross Laidlaw.
If Marciano is fit to play in Greece next week, it could give Lennon food for thought going into the tie.
It’s not a surprise but Hibs are sorely lacking in firepower. The return of Florian Kamberi is one piece of the jigsaw, and his winner last night could end up being priceless in more ways than one, but the Swiss striker needs a Jamie Maclaren-shaped piece beside him, or at least something along those lines.
Martin Boyle started in attack alongside the ex-Grasshoppers forward but Hibs missed his darting runs and explosive pace on the right, with Vykintas Slivka cutting a peripheral figure at times in the first half.
Boyle and Kamberi combined well for the winner, but in an ideal world, the Hibs No.10 will be able to stick to his wide duties and let someone else partner Kamberi up top.
The recruitment team at East Mains are clearly searching hard for reinforcements in attack, with Adam Le Fondre linked and Ivan Lendric on trial. But just as Graeme Mathie’s team did with Kamberi, don’t bet against more gems being unearthed in the search for strikers.
Super John McGinn
Asteras had earmarked John McGinn as the danger man in the Hibs midfield and did well in closing him down every time the Scotland international looked to pull the strings in the middle of the park in the first half.
The Hibs fans are fond of singing about “Super” John McGinn and he showed just why tonight. The 23-year-old seemed to get better and better as the game went on and as the Easter Road side chased first an equaliser and then the winner, he orchestrated it all from the middle of the park. It would be easy to view Stevie Mallan as a like-for-like replacement for Dylan McGeouch, but the former Barnsley man brings something different to the table, and allows his old St Mirren colleague to burst forward and supplement the attack. When he does go, he will be very, very hard to replace.
David Gray has now scored three goals in Hibs’ last four European ties, and his appearance in the second half last night seemed to spark something in Neil Lennon’s side. Stationed on the right flank with Slivka moved into the middle, Gray thundered in the equaliser and came close to adding another. Defensively, Hibs looked more comfortable with the club captain on the park, and moving Slivka brought out the best in the Lithuanian as well. As a result, the whole team worked better and looked more fluid and joined-up.
Lennon will have his work cut out in identifying a formation and gameplan that will give Hibs the best chance of progressing in Greece, but the chances of Gray being listed in the starting eleven must be fairly high.