A STIRRING, classy second-half fightback by Hibs was enough to overcome a 2-0 half-time deficit at home to Gretna which at times threatened to puncture the euphoria of Hibs’ opening day derby victory.
Hibs 4, Gretna 2
August 11, 2007
Merouane Zemmama curled in a spectacular free kick from 30 yards, then Kevin McCann completed a long solo run with a stylish goal of his own to complete a spectacular comeback.
For visitors Gretna, meanwhile, it was a case of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. “Two nil and you messed it up,” sang the Hibs supporters, or words to that effect, when McCann’s 89th minute strike sealed victory. For all that Hibs manager John Collins deserved credit for his substitutions, his side had only themselves to blame for finding themselves 2-0 down early in the second half, with Gretna’s second goal down to defensive dithering. Chris Hogg, with the ball at his feet and his goalkeeper, Yves Ma-kalambay, on hand, was dispossessed by Colin McMenamin, who then simply slid it home.
That made it 2-0, at which point few would have bet on a Hibs recovery – and fewer still a minute later, when Abdessalam Benjelloun’s tame penalty was easily blocked by Greg Fleming.
After 63 minutes, the fightback began. It was engineered by Steven Fletcher, on as a second-half substitute and making a real impact, not least because he provided company for Benjelloun, a lone striker in the first half. He beat a couple of players before playing in Benji, overlapping on his left, who rifled the ball across the face of goal for Merouane Zemmama, another second half substitute, to force it into the net.
To say this goal lifted the crowd does not do justice to the transformation inside Easter Road, and the improved mood was reflected on the pitch. While still not playing the football they were capable of, Hibs’ passing became more fluent, and it was the midfielder best known for his killer passes set up the equaliser, Guillaume Beuzelin floating the ball in from the left for Fletcher to meet with his head.
Hibs had played well until 16 minutes - and then the game changed completely. First Gatheussi and Chris Hogg collided with each other, letting in Fabian Yantorno, although the Uruguayan could not exploit this spectacular breakdown.
A minute later he could. It might only have been Gretna’s second serious foray forward, but Yantorno played a dinky little one-two with Paul Murray on the edge of the box before the striker, collecting the ball, was upended by Hogg. He fell theatrically, prompting the thought he might earn a booking rather than a free kick.
Yantorno stepped up to take it and curled it low around a flimsy wall, and beyond the reach of the diving Makalambay.
Hibs: Makalambay, McCann, Murphy, Jones, Hogg, Gathuessi, O’Brien, Kerr, Beuzelin, Morais, Benjelloun.