Four talking points as dismal Hibs surrender unbeaten record against Motherwell

Kevin van Veen wheels away after scoring his second and Motherwell's thirdKevin van Veen wheels away after scoring his second and Motherwell's third
Kevin van Veen wheels away after scoring his second and Motherwell's third
Domestic football returned to Easter Road with the proverbial bang, as Hibs and Motherwell shared four goals in an incident-packed match – unfortunately for the hosts, three of the goals were in their own net as the visitors deservedly took all three points.

A Sean Goss free kick got the ball rolling after just seven minutes, and Kevin van Veen’s penalty made it two ten minutes into the second half. Kevin Nisbet pulled one back for Hibs but van Veen struck a free kick of his own to restore the two-goal cushion and make the points safe for Stuart Kettlewell’s men, and secure a first win in eight attempts in all competitions against the Hibees.

Tactical surprise

Lee Johnson, confined to the stand for accumulating four bookings this season, made three changes to his side with Chris Cadden returning in place of Lewis Miller, Nisbet coming in for the suspended Élie Youan, and Matthew Hoppe starting over Marijan Čabraja. There was also a return to the bench for Joe Newell, the midfielder having been sidelined for some time with an ankle complaint.

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Despite Hibs having performed well recently in a 4231 set-up, Johnson set out his side in a 352 with CJ Egan-Riley as the right-sided centre-back. The last time the manager made a surprise switch to a back three, Hibs lost 2-1 at home to St Johnstone, so the omens weren’t great – and when Goss curled in a free kick with just seven minutes on the clock, it seemed like history might repeat itself. For the record, Hibs reverted to a back four around ten minutes before the break but by then the damage had already been done.

Defensively suspect

Whether as a three or four-man defence, Hibs didn’t look comfortable dealing with van Veen. The Dutchman could have had a first-half double but was foiled by David Marshall on one occasion and dragged his second effort wide. But the passage of play leading up to Motherwell’s penalty was, from a defensive point of view, a horror show with Blair Spittal afforded far too much time and space before being wiped out by the Hibs No.1. Passes out of defence were unusually slack and too often failed to find their target, putting Hibs under pressure time and again.

Midfield battle

Hibs have looked good in the middle of the park recently but pulling Egan-Riley out left them struggling to match Motherwell’s industry. Jake Doyle-Hayes also copped an early booking, blunting his impact for the remainder of the half before he was replaced at the interval.

Eventually Johnson withdrew Josh Campbell and Egan-Riley and went with a Jimmy Calderwood-esque 424 approach, with Newell the only midfielder who could be anything approaching satisfied with their display.

Tale of two – or three – forwards

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Last time these sides met, Nisbet bagged a hat-trick, with Youan also impressing. This time, Nisbet did get on the scoresheet but with a mere consolation. Instead, it was the van Veen show. He scored two but could have had more, and was a handful for the defence throughout but while he and Motherwell were good, Hibs were abject at times – and boy did they miss Youan’s presence up top. Hibs look a different beast with the Frenchman in their attack.

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