Hibs exit Europe but restore some pride with improved showing against Aston Villa
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Jhon Duran opened the scoring after 12 minutes with Leon Bailey doubling Villa’s lead on the night on 34 minutes. Substitute Matty Cash made it three just after the hour-mark as the English Premier League side once again showed the gulf in class.
The pocket of Hibs fans in one corner were making plenty of noise in the lead-up to kick-off and they had more to, if not cheer about, certainly be excited by as Jordan Obita saw a fierce effort from distance beaten away by Robin Olsen with the Sweden then blocking a Josh Campbell effort. With Liverpool up next in the league on Sunday for Villa, Emery shuffled his pack, handing starts to 17-year-old Omari Kellyman, who impressed, and 20-year-old Sebastian Revan. But while the likes of Moussa Diaby, Lucas Digne, John McGinn, and Ollie Watkins were on the bench, there was still plenty of top-tier ability, and it took just 12 minutes for Duran to prove it, as he ghosted between Rocky Bushiri and Paul Hanlon and slipped Pau Torres’ pass beyond the advancing David Marshall.
Kellyman was the architect for the second goal, weaving through the middle of the Hibs defence before picking out Bailey who had time to shift the ball onto his favoured left foot before slotting home but Villa’s third was a gift. Bailey’s free kick was straight down Marshall’s throat but he fluffed a simple catch and Cash slammed home the rebound.
Bushiri back in
Rocky Bushiri kept his place in a back three alongside Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson, restored to the starting line-up after starting on the bench against Livingston at the weekend. The 23-year-old can sometimes be a little rash or unorthodox but he performed well on the whole in this encounter, his time at Norwich City possibly contributing to a more assured performance than some of his defensive colleagues.
The decision not to start Will Fish after he endured a pretty torrid time against Livi was probably a smart decision by David Gray, and the on-loan Manchester United man produced one goal-line clearance and looked much more like the defender that impressed during the second half of last season than he did previously.
With the tie effectively over at the halfway point, Villa didn’t really need to break sweat to produce another convincing win. Save for Marshall’s fumble, Hibs were much improved. Defensively they were better, they had more chances in the final third, and despite a heavy aggregate defeat, did restore a little bit of pride.
Support for Gray
The interim boss hasn’t exactly forced his way into the limelight for the managerial vacancy but there were a couple of supportive chants from the Hibs fans for his efforts. He is a respected figure around the club and it’s clear to see why he has been kept on the coaching staff. It may feel a bit too soon for him to get the gig in his own right but regardless, he has something to offer apart from his legendary status.