Lee Johnson's message for fans as Hibs boss rejects 'embarrassment' label after Euro defeat
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Adrià Gallego’s 15th minute opener stunned the Easter Road side and Jean Luc Assoubre capitalised on David Marshall’s blunder to poke the hosts into a two-goal lead with 20 minutes to play at the Estadi Comunal. Joe Newell gave Hibs a lifeline going into the return leg when Adrià Muñoz couldn’t keep out his injury-time free kick.
Speaking afterwards, the Hibs boss lamented individual errors and said he was ‘majorly disappointed’ with the opening 45 minutes.
"We were very poor and didn't acclimatise, whether it was the conditions or altitude,” he said. “The lads knew everything about the opposition. You have to give the Andorrans credit, they worked extremely hard and there were far too many unforced errors from us. We don’t have a given right to beat anybody unless we’re at it.
"I was really disappointed with some individuals on the day. We have to be better, quite simply. We took a bit of stick and that was fair. Second half we were much better and I thought we had opportunities to potentially go and win the game, but the second goal was an absolute sucker punch. Joe’s goal was ever so important for us because this is now a completely different game going back to Easter Road with the big, wide pitch and the fans behind us.”
Video emerged on social media of Johnson gesturing to supporters to calm down as the travelling fans made their feelings known to the players and staff after the full-time whistle, but the Hibs boss appealed for their backing while confirming that he understood their reaction.
“I can understand why our fans were getting frustrated,” he continued. “We weren’t very good in the first half. I’ve always been honest and genuine with the fans, I’ll never sugarcoat it: we weren’t good enough, but we’re not out of the tie and that’s why we need everybody even more for the second leg to give us this boost. The fans have got to maintain belief. Within ten minutes of the second leg we could turn the tie on its head and that’s the attitude we need to take. What we don’t need is the tension and the tightness of the negativity in the second leg to seep into the players’ performances. We have got to be careful not to be too negative. We won’t let the negativity seep in."
Admitting the first leg had been a ‘wake-up call’, Johnson added: “We were poor, and I think individuals will accept that. I have to accept that as the one picking the team and putting the guys out there but it doesn’t mean I’ve lost belief in the players after a bad 45 minutes.
"There were too many poor individual decisions. I could come up with excuses about altitude, heat and maybe we should have come out a day earlier but we could have been better in our decision-making and our execution. The tie is not over. There is a bit to do, but this game is not unturnable.”