HIBS boss Colin Calderwood secured his first victory as manager of the Easter Road side with a memorable three-goal dismantling of SPL leaders Rangers.
The former Nottingham Forrest manager had lost his first three matches in charge since succeeding John Hughes, but he earned himself plenty of credit amongst the Hibs support with this victory – the first team to beat the Ibrox side on their own patch since March 2009.
The visitors raced into an unexpected 2-0 lead with just 20 minutes on the clock to leave the home fans in a state of shock, There was an element of freakishness to their first goal after six minutes, although goalscorer Liam Miller showed terrific skill to dupe Lee McCulloch and work himself into a shooting position around 25 yards out.
The Irish midfielder’s shot took a wicked swerve, with the aid of the slightest of deflections off Maurice Edu, totally deceiving Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor, and the ball nestled low in the left hand corner of his net.
You expected a backlash from the hosts, but it was Hibs, confounding any normal expectations of a team low on confidence, who continued to retain possession far more effectively than their opponents. Miller was clearly revelling in his role behind lone striker Valdas Trakys and carved the Rangers defence open on the left to create his team’s next chance. It was one David Wotherspoon should have taken from around eight yards out, although McGregor deserved credit for making a typically instinctive save.
The Scotland keeper was left helpless, however, when Hibs doubled their advantage in the 19th minute. It was a magnificently worked and sweetly finished goal. Ian Murray’s clever through pass was dummied by Miller, allowing John Rankin to latch on to it. From just outside the penalty area, the midfielder struck a rasping right foot shot high into the top left hand corner of McGregor’s net.
This prompted an earlier than accustomed foray from the directors’ box to the technical area for Gers boss Walter Smith, who barked instructions to his players who appeared to be in a condition of semi-paralysis. Their attempts to forge a way back into the match were generally laboured and comfortably dealt with by Hibs,
As frustration grew among the home fans, the first half ended in further despair for Rangers as they had two players carried off on stretchers. Edu was the first to depart, after seeming to twist his ankle in the turf, before Sasa Papac came off worst in an accidental clash of heads with Trakys. Vladimir Weiss and Kirk Broadfoot were the replacements.
It required a tremendous save from Mark Brown to prevent Rangers making the perfect start to the second half. After Weiss had burst into space on the right, his low cutback found Lee McCulloch in a crowded penalty area. The midfielder struck his low shot with ferocious power, but Brown somehow managed to keep it out.
Although Hibs were now being asked more questions as a defensive unit, their levels of organisation and resilience remained impressive.
As Rangers ran out of both steam and ideas, Hibs looked increasingly capable of helping themselves to a third goal. McGregor denied it with a fine save to touch Rankin’s rasping 25 yard shot over, but only temporarily. From the subsequent corner, taken by Rankin from the left, Sol Bamba headed towards the six-yard box where Francis Dickoh twisted acrobatically to smash a right foot volley beyond McGregor.
Hibs:Brown, Hart, Grounds, Murray, Dickoh, Bamba, De Graaf, Rankin, Wotherspoon, Miller, Trakys.