HIBS brought Rangers back to earth after the Glasgow club returned from securing one of their greatest away European successes – a 3-0 Champions League victory over French champions Lyon.
Hibs won with a goal by the full-back, David Murphy, who also managed a critical clearance off his own line in the dying minutes.
A tedious first half gave way to an absorbing second period and more glory for John Collins and his team.
Hibs sat at the summit of the SPL with six wins, three draws and no defeats having completed the Glasgow double, with both Rangers and Celtic being defeated in a matter of weeks,
Walter Smith blundered with his team selection. The men who provided the goals at Stade Gerland on Tuesday evening did not start the game. Lee McCulloch and Daniel Cousin began on the bench and only appeared when Hibs had taken the lead. DaMarcus Beasley was given a day off. Steven Naismith was also held in reserve (he was sprung amid the crisis) and Jean-Claude Darcheville was injured.
Smith had cause to regret his selection afterwards, but it was obvious that they were struggling from early on, for there wasn’t an ounce of oomph in his team as an attacking force. Kris Boyd was up front on his own for Rangers and he didn’t get a sniff.
At the other end, Mickael Antoine-Curier had help from Clayton Donaldson and Steven Fletcher but none of them had any luck either. The midfield was too crowded for anything crisp to happen. Too many bodies were colliding and forcing too many errors.
The only noteworthy happenings in the opening 45 minutes were mostly slapstick moments. True, Barry Ferguson had a shot in the 16th minute but Yves Ma-Kalambay wasn’t exactly extended when dealing with it. What we had then was an awful lot of effort and no cutting edge. Charlie Adam’s travails typified proceedings. After half an hour he had a shot so high and unmighty that it found the upper tier of the Broomloan Road stand. Then another shot and a header both sailed over.
Late in the half a little dart up the right by Steven Whittaker, followed by a cross, saw Ma-Kalambay pawing the ball away to Adam. The midfielder tried to delicately pick a spot in the corner of the Hibs goal but only managed to bounce it wide.
At the break Collins acted, replacing Donaldson with the lively Filipe Morais, who went on to have a telling role in Murphy’s goal. That was the kind of decisive thinking the Rangers fans wanted from Smith but there was no such move from him despite Ibrox getting more restless and more abusive of their team as the minutes ticked on.
Then the place went barmy. Hibs won a corner, Morais swung it in and Murphy sneaked in ahead of everyone to glance a gorgeous header past McGregor. He took off in the direction of the Hibs support, pursued by his stunned team-mates, greeted by his euphoric fans, a small pocket of joy amid the bitterness and rancour.
They roared for Smith to act and eventually he did. In the 69th minute he replaced Whittaker with Naismith and Kevin Thomson with McCulloch. When they didn’t pay dividends he put Cousin on for Boyd. Hibs repelled them all. Their back four was simply outstanding.
HIBS: Ma-Kalambay, McCann, Murphy, Jones, Hogg, Chisholm, Antoine-Curier (Zemmama 74), Kerr, Beuzelin, Donaldson (Morais 46), Fletcher (O’Brien 82)