Hibs stun Arsenal with 2-1 win in pre-season friendly
Hibs marked their first game at Easter Road in front of fans for nearly 500 days with a fine 2-1 win against Arsenal.
For the first five or ten minutes, every positive move was greeted by a large cheer from the 1,800 or so Hibs fans but there were louder swells of noise when Martin Boyle and Daniel Mackay found the net in either half.
If there was any trepidation on the part of the Hibs defence at facing English Premier League stalwarts in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Willian they didn’t show it, Paul Hanlon and Ryan Porteous both stepping in to block efforts from Aubameyang early on.
It was Eddie Nketiah who had the first real chance of the game, dispossessing Hanlon around 25 yards from goal after just five minutes and having a free run at Matt Macey but the 22-year-old fired narrowly wide as he sought the bottom corner.
The narrow escape stirred Hibs into action, Stevie Bradley’s cross-cum-shot being gathered easily by Arthur Okonkwo, but the 19-year-old ‘keeper didn’t look too comfortable minutes later as he fumbled a Boyle cross out for a corner.
At the other end, Macey denied Reiss Nelson and Nketiah so when Hibs took the lead midway through the half it was somewhat against the run of play.
Cedric’s passback looked simple enough to deal with but Okonkwo swiped at fresh air, leaving Boyle to tap the ball into the empty net.
Willian went close with a free kick as Arsenal sought a quick reply and Aubameyang could only hit the wall with a similar effort moments after.
Hibs could have made it two on 27 minutes, but Kevin Nisbet headed Allan’s cross straight at Okonkwo and at the other end, Hanlon and Nisbet combined to deny Nelson and Willian.
Bradley then smacked the base of the post as Hibs took advantage of some slack defending by the visitors.
Mikel Arteta shuffled his pack, making no fewer than seven changes at the break while Hibs made just one switch, replacing Macey with Dabrowski and the substitute ‘keeper was called into action after just five minutes of the second interval as he tipped a Nicolas Pepe free kick on to the woodwork and out for a corner.
Despite the change, the Gunners looked more dangerous in the attacking third, Alexandre Lacazette proving a tricky customer in and around the box.
The French striker had a glorious chance to level the score on the hour mark but he miskicked, and Dabrowski smothered the loose ball. The ‘keeper was then relieved to see a vicious free kick from Pepe smack the woodwork.
Hibs introduced Kyle Magennis and Mackay on 67 minutes and the latter's first action was to put the hosts two goals up, the summer signing getting the final touch after Hanlon headed a corner back across the face of goal.
Within five minutes Arsenal had the chance to reduce the deficit from the penalty spot after Pepe was bundled over by Paul McGinn but Dabrowski guessed correctly and denied the former Lile man for a second time.
The English side continued pressing and were rewarded for their efforts when substitute Emile Smith Rowe finished from close range at the back post, but Hibs held on to record a fine 2-1 victory – their first in four attempts against the Gunners.