Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today praised Dominique Malonga after the enigmatic striker shrugged off a horror miss against Livingston to clinch a memorable League Cup victory over Premiership leaders Aberdeen.
Malonga went from zero to hero, somehow scuffing a shot off the post from only three yards out at the weekend – his blushes spared by a stunning winner from team-mate Liam Henderson – but then running more than half the length of the pitch on Wednesday night to put the tie beyond the Dons only minutes after replacing Jason Cummings, who had struck the opener.
Stubbs admitted Malonga continues to divide the opinion of Hibs fans despite having scored 16 goals last season even although he was a late signing and then spent weeks away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Congo.
The head coach said: “Dom probably gets comments because he is different. He is not what you would call a typical centre-forward, he has got his own style. Some people might like it, some people might get a little bit frustrated by it sometimes. But that’s the way it is.
“You have to remember the goals he scored last season and he was away for the best part of six weeks so he didn’t do too badly in the end.
“It says a lot for Dom because I know for a fact he was disappointed to miss the chance he missed at Livingston last weekend. Any striker would be. But the sign of a good striker is the respond very quickly.”
Stubbs, however, admitted he was thinking “surely not, surely not” when he saw the French-born forward pick up John McGinn’s clearance some 20 yards inside his own half before heading for the Aberdeen goal.
He said: “He kept going and kept going and showed a bit of everything. He showed strength to hold off Niall McGinn, then he showed great balance to check inside Shay Logan and he showed great composure to finish. So there were a lot of elements, it wasn’t just a run from his own half, he still had a lot to do.”
Stubbs also revealed that there had been “a little” interest in Malonga during the summer transfer window but that it had come to nothing. He said: “I don’t know whether it was close but nothing happened in the end and he stayed here. We didn’t necessarily want Dom to go. There was a little bit of interest but that’s all it turned out to be.
“The window closed, nothing happened, and we were happy with that because it would have left us looking for a replacement very late. Windows create situations like that and, until the last second ticks away and the window closes, you are never quite sure what is going to happen. We were always comfortable with everything.
“Dom is here and he is part of the squad and his attitude has been great since then.”
Stubbs also disclosed that midfielder Liam Henderson, who had made his displeasure at being substituted on Wednesday night clear as he trudged towards the dug-out had apologised for his actions. He said: “He was disappointed to come off and, honestly, I would not want a player who was not disappointed to come off.
“We had a chat about it, he has apologised. He is still young, he is learning but he understands what I expect. My decisions are always for the team, no matter what, and that will always be the case. There was nothing personal about it, it didn’t reflect badly on his performance whatsoever.
“It was unlike him. He knows it wasn’t right and I’m sure it won’t happen again.”