Molde 3-0 Hibs: Haaland too hot to handle as Hibs’ Euro adventure ends

Erling Braut Haaland celebrates after scoring his second, and Molde's third, at the Aker Stadion. Picture: AP
Erling Braut Haaland celebrates after scoring his second, and Molde's third, at the Aker Stadion. Picture: AP
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Erling Braut Haaland lived up to the hype as Molde’s £10 million man ended Hibernian’s Europa League adventure with a virtuoso performance.

The 18-year-old displayed prodigious pace and power to torment the visitors, scoring twice and teeing up Fredrik Aursnes as the hosts prevailed with a 3-0 victory.

If, as is expected, he usurps John Carew as the most expensive ever export from the Norwegian top-flight by joining Salzburg, it will surely be merely a stepping stone to one of the continent’s most prestigious leagues. This kid is special.

Hibs never gave up the ghost against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stylish side, striking the post in the second period, but were simply unable to handle Haaland. In years to come, one suspects that will be seen as no shame.

The reverse brings a decent continental campaign that saw victories of Runavik and Asteras Tripolis to an end, with Molde progressing to the playoff round as the Hibees put their passports away from another year.

Around 600 Hibs supporters made the journey to Norway’s west coast, with fans’ group Hibernian Supporters Limited even organising a charter flight when the club were unable to oblige, and they made their presence felt in the sleepy sea-side town throughout the day.

A raucous atmosphere was created much to the bemusement - and occasionally amusement - of the locals. That continued within the confines of the Aker Stadium, with the travelling Hibees drowning out their rather more sedate hosts. An intimidating cauldron of hate, this was not.

Nevertheless, their team is handy. It took just four minutes for Molde to threaten, with Efe Ambrose forced into a last-ditch block when a bright corner routine culminated in Pawel Cibicki getting a shot away from the edge of the box.

Any notion that Hibs would adopt a safety-first approach was quashed by the selection of Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi, reunited in attack for the first time since the Australian returned to the club, and in-form Martin Boyle as a wing-back. But it was Molde who made the early running.

Of their profusion of attacking threat, Haaland is the teenage talisman. He missed the first leg stalemate after travelling to Austria for transfer talks with Salzburg but returned to the side as that potential switch continues to prove a protracted affair.

However, he passed up a glorious opportunity to give Molde the lead when he escaped the attentions of Ryan Porteous to meet a Cibicki delivery, only to send his header wide from eight yards.

Cibicki was electric in the early stages - and is a name that may prompt some horrific flashbacks for Hibs fans, given he was in the Malmo side that obliterated the Pat Fenlon’s hapless side 7-0 at Easter Road in 2013. He fizzed a shot over the bar with 20 minutes on the clock.

Haaland was most definitely making his presence felt in an almighty physical scrap with Porteous - at 6ft3ins he does not carry himself like a youngster - however, he was struggling to find his range. He skewed another effort wildly off target following a fine Hestad pass.

Stevie Mallan’s repeated speculative drives from distance were a feature of the maiden meeting of these sides in Edinburgh - striking the cross-bar with one - and the midfielder was at it again in Norway when he stung the palms of Andreas Linde from 25 yards.

Haaland’s profligacy was never likely to persist, however, and he gave the hosts the lead 10 minutes before the break. A deep Aursnes free-kick was headed across the face of goal by Ruben Gabrielsen, allowing Alf-Inge’s lad to nod home from point-blank range.

It was deja vu all over again when Mallan, seeking an immediate riposte, forced a sharp low save from Linde on the cusp of half-time.

The goal changed little in the sense that Hibs always required a goal in order to progress, and they almost claimed it when a tempting Maclaren cross found Boyle at the back-post. However, he failed to steer his effort on target from a prohibitive angle.

Hibs were made to pay for that wastefulness when Molde doubled their advantage. Haaland was once again pivotal, out-muscling Efe Ambrose to latch onto a through-ball before coolly squaring the ball for Aursnes to roll into an empty net.

In desperate need of a response to keep their European dream alive, there was heartbreak for the Hibees as Maclaren hit the post with a header following an instinctive cut-back by Lewis Stevenson.

And the icing on the cake for the hosts was provided when Haaland slammed his second of the night beyond Bodgan after a Hestad shot had deflected into his path via Paul Hanlon.