Hibs suffered their first away defeat in the Ladbrokes Premiership this season after a heavy 4-1 reversal by Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
A hat-trick from Dons winger Gary Mackay-Steven and a goal from Graeme Shinnie handed Hibs their biggest loss under head coach Neil Lennon and made it a long trip home for 1217 Hibs fans in attendance.
This was a galling afternoon for Lennon’s side, who were lethargic from the beginning and appeared fatigued from playing a third match in six days after a 2-2 home draw with Celtic on Sunday and a 2-1 loss to Rangers on Wednesday.
Even still, the Hibs boss cut an exasperated figure on the touchline as the second-placed Dons moved nine points clear of the Capital outfit, who remain fourth in the table.
Hibs made two changes from the team that lost 2-1 to Rangers. Marvin Bartley and Brandon Barker returned to the starting XI, while Anthony Stokes and Oli Shaw dropped to the bench. There was a place in the squad for Danny Swanson, who had not featured in the matchday group since the Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic in October. The Dons restored Mackay-Steven and Andrew Considine to their team, with Greg Stewart put on the subs bench and Kari Arnason left out altogether.
Shinnie opened the scoring for the hosts on 11 minutes. A raking crossfield pass from Kenny McLean found Mackay-Steven on the left-flank and he cushioned a volleyed pass into the path of the Dons captain. He didn’t even have to break stride as he met the ball unmarked and side-footed past a helpless Ofir Marciano in the Hibs goal.
Aberdeen were in control of the first 20 minutes and Hibs boss Lennon switched his formation from 4-5-1 to a diamond 4-1-2-1-2 in an attempt to get back into the game. It worked to an extent, with Barker’s 25-yard shot saved comfortably by Joe Lewis before Darren McGregor glanced a header wide after Paul Hanlon nodded a free-kick back across goal.
However, the hosts doubled their advantage on 36 minutes and it was a combination of fine skill by Mackay-Steven and dismal defending by Hibs. The winger picked up a pass from Considine and wriggled past Hanlon, nutmegged McGregor and drove a shot towards goal that Marciano could only deflect onto the post as it found the net.
The task ahead of Hibs already looked too big, but any lingering hopes of comeback were shattered right on half-time. Efe Ambrose, who had a treacherous afternoon at right-back before moving to centre-half, slipped with the ball in his possession and Mackay-Steven took full advantage, racing away from the chasing McGregor and finishing calmly for 3-0.
Lennon made two personnel alterations at half-time, bringing on Stokes for Bartley and Steven Whittaker for McGregor in an attack-minded 4-2-4 formation.
Hibs had a brief flurry of pressure at the start of the second period, but the rampant Mackay-Steven completed his hat-trick on 62 minutes. The winger – who always causes Hibs problems – was afforded too much space in the penalty box and he dribbled unchallenged before letting off a rising right-foot shot that crashed home via Marciano’s post. The Hibs defence would no doubt be glad to see his departure on 69 minutes when he was replaced by Scott Wright.
Aberdeen’s buoyant fans chanted “we want five” and they were almost rewarded right at the death, but Considine’s header was ruled out for offside.
Hibs, however, had the last say as Stokes' effort on 89 minutes deflected off Shinnie and past Lewis to give them a late consolation.
Aberdeen (4-4-2): Lewis; Logan, O’Connor, McKenna, Considine; Christie, McLean, Shinnie, Mackay-Steven (Wright 69); Rooney (Stewart 57), May (Maynard 77). Unused subs: Rogers, Harvie, Reynolds, Ball.
Hibs (4-5-1): Marciano; Ambrose, McGregor (Whittaker 46), Hanlon, Stevenson; Boyle, McGeouch, Bartley (Stokes 46), McGinn, Barker; S Murray (Shaw 60). Unused subs: Dabrowski, Porteous, Slivka, Swanson.
Referee: B Madden.