THE final scoreline was not entirely a fair reflection on the performance of Hibs who dominated from start to finish and should have been out of sight by referee John Underhill’s half-time whistle.
This was the Easter Road men’s game by some distance. They should have had the contest won by the end of the first half, in which they tormented Rangers every time they had possession, but they could only score the once.
However, in the end, they only took the points the hard way by conceding an equaliser before reasserting their control as Kiwi striker Chris Killen sealed the three points by completing his brace, before being sent-off late on.
Every element of Tony Mowbray’s side functioned well, but special mention had to be made to the men in the middle of the park. Michael Stewart, Kevin Thomson and Scott Brown were faster and keener than their Rangers counterparts managed by Walter Smith. Killen finished well with both goals, albeit with the assistance of an inept Rangers defence, while Ivan Sproule wreaked havoc with his pace and passion.
Hibs opened the scoring after seven minutes when Stewart and Killen combined to create a simple goal. A Stewart free-kick into the box found Killen who was able to break free from Julien Rodriguez to loop a header into the net past the stranded Allan McGregor.
As it was, Mowbray’s team dominated the rest of the half without adding to their lead, and Rangers’ frustration was shown in the three bookings – for Steven Smith, Barry Ferguson and Phil Bardsley – they received in the later stages of the opening 45 minutes.
Rangers became more solid at the back, and then grew more assertive further up the field after the restart. Just after Rob Jones had become the first Hibs player to be booked, Bardsley came close direct from a free-kick. Still Rangers had not had an attempt on target, but that changed shortly thereafter, and so did the scoreline.
The scoring move began when David Murphy was dispossessed by Chris Burke just inside his own half, then was beaten again by the winger as he made his way to the bye-line.
Having created space for himself, Burke had time to look up and spot Filip Sebo making a run towards the back post, and his outswinging cross was perfectly placed for the Slovakian striker to head low into Zibi Malkowski’s net.
To their great credit, though, Hibs reasserted their superiority, and deservedly regained the lead when Killen, again left unmarked in the box, headed home from a Steven Whittaker cross from the right.
Killen was booked for celebrating the goal by removing his jersey, and that was to prove costly three minutes from time when he received a second yellow following a goalmouth scuffle. Rangers had little time to exploit their numerical superiority, before Bardsley then levelled the sides by receiving a second yellow of his own for refusing to retreat ten yards after Hibs were awarded a free-kick.
Hibs: Malkowski, Whittaker, Murphy, Martis, Jones, Thomson, Stewart, Sproule, Brown, Benjelloun, Killen.