Hibee History: Benji’s double sends Falkirk packing

Abdessalam Benjelloun scores his second

Abdessalam Benjelloun scores his second

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Hibs warmed up for their CIS Insurance cup final against Kilmarnock at Hampden Park with a routine home win over their ten-man visitors.

Goalkeeper Simon Brown was dropped after two costly errors in the 2-0 loss at home to Rangers, with Andy McNeil recalled.

Moroccan pair Merouane Zemmama and Abdessalam Benjelloun were also handed starts by manager John Collins, with Ivan Sproule and Thomas Sowunmi relegated to the bench.

Falkirk striker Alan Gow was a late absentee, while midfielder’s Patrick Cregg and Thomas Scobbie were suspended.

But central defender Darren Barr returned after a back injury to partner Vitor Lima.

Hibs were first to threaten on two minutes when Scott Brown surged down the right and his cross was only partially cleared, but Zemmama could only screw the loose ball into the ground and wide.

Striker Steven Fletcher had a deflected drive grasped by Bairns keeper Kasper Schmeichel, but he almost turned provider in the 12th minute.

The 19-year-old wriggled past two challenges in the penalty box before laying the ball off to Steven Whittaker just seven yards from goal. However, Falkirk defender Jack Ross deflected the full-back’s weak strike almost off his own goal-line to prevent a certain opener.

Former Hibs favourite Russell Latapy then went close with a low 25-yard strike after a loose pass from home captain Rob Jones.

Hibs fans were upset when Benjelloun appeared to be hauled down by Ross, but referee Craig Thomson booked the striker for diving instead of pointing to the penalty spot.

Five minutes before the interval, Thomson angered the visitors when he presented defender Dean Holden with a red card for a reckless tackle on Zemmama. Schmeichel kept out a low strike and a header from Brown before the first half came to a close.

The Hibees grabbed the opening goal after 51 minutes when David Murphy and Fletcher combined well on the left and, after the ball sped across the box, half-time substitute Sproule cut it back for Benjelloun to fire home.

Defender Chris Hogg came close to doubling Hibs’ lead when he nodded over, but the Bairns almost grabbed a surprise equaliser after Kenny Milne flicked Lima’s inswinging free-kick just a foot wide.

Barr then came even closer for the visitors when, from Liam Craig’s free-kick, he looped a point-blank header onto the top of the net when it looked easier to score.

Benjelloun bagged his second goal on 74 minutes, a feat he would repeat at Hampden in the 5-1 victory over Killie a week later, by tucking away a neat lofted flick from substitute Michael Stewart from the right side of six-yard box.

The lively Sproule was then denied by Schmeichel before Sowunmi hit the underside of the bar from close range.

Hibs: McNeil, Whittaker, Hogg, Jones, Murphy, Zemmama, Brown, Beuzelin, Stevenson, Benjelloun, Fletcher.