How Hibs Under-19s fared in Algarve Cup tournament as youngsters faced European cracks in Portugal
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Academy chief Steve Kean took a group of players similar to the UEFA Youth League squad, with a view to earning wider experience for the players ahead of their Youth League play-off match against Borussia Dortmund in February and helping the squad knit together.
Drawn in Pool B alongside Portuguese sides Benfica and Porto; SønderjyskE of Denmark, and a team comprising players from the American-based Soccer Universities team, the Easter Road side lost 2-0 to Benfica before a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Porto in their opening two matches, with each game lasting 45 minutes rather than the usual 90.
Hibs recorded a 0-0 draw against the Danes despite dominating the game but found their shooting boots in the final group matches against Soccer Universities, with Ethan Laidlaw grabbing a double; one a solo effort and one from the penalty spot after a foul on Josh McCulloch.
Josh O’Connor, who was on target in France in the 2-1 victory over Nantes in the UEFA Youth League, scored a third but saw his effort chalked off for offside. Hibs finished their pool matches on four points, taking them through to final-day matches against a third Portuguese side in Braga and West Sydney All-Stars from Australia.
Against Braga Malek Zaid, who scored in the 2-1 win against Molde at Easter Road in the first round second leg match in the Youth League, won the ball back and played in Laidlaw, who finished for his third goal in two matches, and the Capital club defended well to record a 1-0 victory.
The final game – a play-off for fifth and sixth place against West Sydney – ended 2-0 for Hibs. Laidlaw and O’Connor combined for the opening goal, with the former taking advantage of a defensive error to round the goalkeeper and lay it on a plate for the latter, and defender Kanayo Megwa made sure of the win with a powerful effort from close range following a corner. The victory secured a fifth-place finish for Hibs, with Benfica and Porto contesting the final, which ended in a 2-0 victory for the Lisbon-based team.