Hibs lost the lead three times and had a player sent off in a pulsating six-goal thriller at Easter Road against second-placed Rangers.
Despite there being nothing at stake in the game after Rangers had conceded the title to Celtic the week before, Hibs were hoping to bounce back after their shock Scottish Cup semi-final elimination at the hands of Dunfermline.
In response to their midweek defeat at Hampden, Hibs manager John Collins had decided to make five changes with Shelton Martis, Kevin McCann, Dean Shiels, Ross Chisholm and Stephen Fletcher all coming into the starting line-up.
The Hibees were enthusiastic in the early periods with Fletcher and Dean Shiels seeing a lot of the possession. But it was Rangers who caught sight of the first real chance in the fifth minute when Ugo Ehiogu blasted a shot over the bar from 16 yards from Kevin Thomson’s corner.
Steven Whittaker swiftly replied at the other end, drilling a shot over the bar from Chisholm’s deep cross. Hibs’ pressure paid dividends when Fletcher coolly slotted the ball under Allan McGregor from 12 yards after latching on to Benjelloun’s pass. Yet, just as the home fans were hoping the breakthrough could be consolidated, Rangers replied against the run of play. Charlie Adam stepped up, firing in a free-kick from the side of the box, with Hibs goalkeeper Andy McNeil slow to react.
Collins had decided to deploy French midfielder Beuzelin in central defence, and as such the hosts were content to play the ball around patiently meaning it was no real surprise when Hibernian restored their slender lead in first-half injury-time. After a Chisolm corner found McCann and the Rangers defence failing to close him down, he drilled an unstoppable shot high into the corner of the net from 25 yards.
Rangers’ persistence paid off with a sublime equaliser after the inteval.The move which began from deep inside their own half with a reverse pass from Barry Ferguson finding Novo, ended when the impish Spaniard found Hutton charging up the flank, clipping the ball over the advancing McNeil.
Nonetheless, Hibs kept their composure and went ahead once more. Whittaker, the standout performer struck a superb half-volley, which sailed past the stricken McGregor into the corner of the net.Rangers continued to press, and were rewarded with an equaliser, Adam curving the ball over the wall into the net from a free-kick. Beuzelin was shown a straight red in injury time for a foul on Kris Boyd as he raced down on goal, adding to the frustration for the Hibs faithful.
Hibs: McNeil, McCann, Stevenson, Hogg, Martis, Beuzelin, Whittaker, Shiels, Chisholm, Benjelloun, Fletcher