Hibs midfielder admits 'better team won' as he reflects on embarrassing night in Andorra
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But his injury-time strike against Inter Club d’Escaldes on Thursday night might have given Hibs a better chance of progressing to the third qualifying round against either Djurgårdens or potentially Luzern, after the Swiss somewhat surprisingly won 2-1 in Stockholm. Hibs have to eliminate the Andorrans next Thursday to progress and a one-goal deficit is certainly less of a mountain to climb, after a chastening defeat in the Pyrenees.
"I’ve not scored too many goals so it’s up there. I genuinely am not bothered about goals, never have been, but it does give us a chance and make it slightly easier. At 2-0 I would still have fancied us being at home, but a one goal deficit makes it a little bit easier,” he said, speaking from the Estadi Comunal after the game.
“We’ve had really good preparation coming into this first competitive game, we had a really good pre-season and have been looking forward to this. The club has built up this European venture we want to go on. But from the very start it wasn’t good enough. We didn’t set out the standard we want, never started with the intensity or style of play we want to play. From the get go it wasn’t good enough, it was unacceptable.”
Manager Lee Johnson tried to play down the magnitude of the defeat, insisting that he didn’t want negativity to seep into his squad, but his midfielder was in no doubts about the scale of the defeat.
“It’s a bad loss; you can’t beat around the bush, it’s bad. I’m not going to sit here and give anything about excuses. The better team on the day won. They deserved to win. It’s an embarrassing night for us,” he admitted. “But when the dust has settled and we analyse it, we had a few good chances in the second half and the goal has helped us to be in a positive mindset. It gives us a right good chance at home, on a bigger pitch, to play the way we expect ourselves to play.
“We gave them the respect that they deserved. We knew how they were going to play and what it would mean to them. We knew the kind of antics they’d get up to. But this is all part of playing these European games, it’s a different kind of test.
“We knew exactly what they’d be like. We knew their threats so there was no surprise there. It was just a bad performance. It wasn’t through a lack of effort or preparation, it was just us on the day not being as good as what we should have been or what we expect of ourselves. We started sluggish and that’s what they like. I’ve not seen the first gal back but it’s too easy how they get in and that gives them a lift. It gives their fans a lift, then they can sit behind the ball even more. We just didn’t start with the urgency or style of play we expect from ourselves.”
The message from Johnson to the media echoed his message to the players at half-time. Newell didn’t start the game and was one of two changes for the second half, replacing Dylan Levitt while Christian Doidge came on for Elias Melkersen, and the 30-year-old explained what the manager had said in the dressing room.
“It’s half-time, isn’t it? It’s only halfway through. If we win next week and get through and win the first game of the season at home, it will kind of be forgotten about. It’s one of them. We’ve just got to dust ourselves down, look back, and learn from it. We can’t just brush it under the carpet. We need to go home, have a look at where we’ve gone wrong and why we didn’t start how we should start and why we didn’t implement our style and game plan. Then we go again.”
Johnson spoke about the importance of playing the second leg at Easter Road, on a bigger pitch with a strong support and Newell agrees that home comforts can help.
“I’m fully confident, 100 per cent confidence. We know what they’re like now. We know the test they’ll bring. They’re obviously not going to come and roll over – I’m not saying we’re going to go back to Easter Road and win 3-0. It’s going to be a very, very tough game so, yeah, we know what to expect but I know for a fact we won’t be as bad as what we were in the first leg - especially tempo-wise, intensity-wise, aggression and all that stuff. We’re playing at home and want to play our way.”
Newell had sympathy for David Marshall, whose error led to Inter’s second goal as he fumbled a trundling effort into the path of Jean Luc Assoubre, but the former Rotherham United man insisted mistakes are part and parcel of the game.
"He came in, held his hands up and said, ‘Sorry lads, that was my fault’. But these things happen. Every single player in the dressing room will make more than one mistake this season. Unfortunately for a goalie, they do it once and it can lead to a goal. He doesn’t need to go on about it. No-one else needs to go on about it. He’s made a mistake. I will make plenty of mistakes this season. All of us will.”
Half-time or not, Hibs need to salvage this tie in the second leg and while not impossible, they will need figures like Newell on the park to have the best possible chance of progression. After his performance against Inter, don’t bet against him starting in Edinburgh.