Five things we learned from Runavik 4 - 6 Hibs
Craig Fowler gives his take as Hibs advance to the second round of Europa League qualifying following a wild evening in the Faroe Islands.
Hibs paid an early price for taking their opponents too lightly
It was a very passive performance from the visitors in the opening minutes as they failed to get close to their hosts. Perhaps they believed the result was academic, and that Runavik did too. Instead, the Faroese side went at them from the start in a bid to haul back the seemingly unreachable deficit. Once Hibs had been slapped twice in the face they were able to rouse themselves from their slumber and, even though the defence remained at sixes and sevens, were comfortably the better side for the remainder - as they should be.
It may be a while before we see that defence again
The bad news is that the Hibs defence conceded four goals to the fourth best team in the Faroe Islands. The good news is you’ll never likely see that defence again. Without Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor, Steven Whittaker was installed alongside Efe Ambrose and youngster Ryan Porteous in the back three. All three struggled as each individual member of the rearguard never looked comfortable with themselves or their defensive partners.
Stevie Mallan is a terrific threat from distance
That’s four goals in two games and all of them have come from outside the penalty area. You could say that a competent goalkeeper would have stopped three of them (pfft, how fun are you?) but you’d also have to admit that he’s displayed the ability to threatened the opposition penalty box from anywhere inside 25 yards. Look forward to more belters in the near futre.
John McGinn is a straight up baller
Despite leading by five goals from the first leg and the possibility of a hefty transfer fee coming in for the player, it was perhaps a bit of a surprise to see McGinn in the starting XI. Sure, Lennon had said he’d play, but with a potential payday for the club in the balance if he were to get injured, you didn’t know for sure whether he would given the circumstances.
After some derisory bids and chatter from Celtic skipper Scott Brown about the midfielder, perhaps it was an act of sticking two fingers up to their Scottish Premiership rivals. Having started against Runavik, McGinn is now ineligible for play for any club in Champions League qualifying.
If that puts off Celtic from making a satisfactory offer until the end of the deadline, well then that can only be a good thing for Hibs. While it wasn’t the sternest test McGinn will ever face, he still deserves credit for a sparkling performance. He was at the heart of everything his team did, notching a goal and two assists as well as creating numerous other chances. If he remains for the foreseeable, Hibs will fancy their chances of extending this European run beyond the second round.
David Gray reminded everyone he’s still fighting for his place
The Scottish Cup-winning hero was something of an afterthought last year. Hampered by injury, when he wasn’t unavailable for selection he was failing to show the kind of form that had him distinguished as one of the best full-backs in Scotland during his time in the second tier. Again, we have to mention the quality of the opposition, but that looked like the Gray of old on Thursday night as he attacked down the flank with real gusto. His cross created Hibs’ first and he would later net himself. It’s only one game against part-timers, but it was encouraging nonetheless.