By Ben McNicol
Hibs are in the driving seat for a place in the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League with a comfortable 3-0 win against Andorran side FC Santa Coloma.
Martin Boyle put the home side ahead from the spot after 13 minutes. Joe Newell was shown a controversial red card by referee Vilhjalmur Thorarinsson for trying to block Robert Ramos’ clearance on the edge inside the Coloma box.
The over 4,600 fans inside Easter Road booed the referee off the park at half-time, but jeers turned to cheers shortly after the restart as Boyle doubled their lead before Hamza Ryazi Bouharma and Ramos were both sent off for the visitors within a five-minute spell.
Kevin Nisbet added a third to all but put the Andorran minnows out of sight and next week’s trip abroad should be comfortable. Three goals, two disallowed goals, three red cards, one of the most bizarre penalties ever conceded and a rather questionable refereeing performance according to Hibs head coach Jack Ross.
It’s fair to say Hibs fans in attendance got their money’s worth. As expected, the visitors came to frustrate Hibs, but it didn’t last long as a moment of madness from Santa Coloma goalkeeper Miguel Ramos saw the home side awarded a penalty kick. Boyle stepped up and confidently dispatched from 12-yards to put Hibs ahead.
Newell was scandalously sent off for a challenge on Roberto Ramos and for a short spell after that Hibs looked rattled. However, a moment of magic from Boyle shortly after the restart doubled Hibs’ advantage as he beat a whole host of Coloma defenders before striking into the bottom left-hand corner.
The Australian was on the end of a knee-high challenge from Miranda minutes later which was deserving of a red card. Thorarinsson eventually got his red card out for the visitors as Ryazi Bouharma was sent off for a last man foul.
Five minutes later, the Easter Road stands were cheering once again as they got what they’d been waiting on all evening. Roberto Ramos, who got Newell sent off in the first half, lunged into Nisbet and was deserving of a second yellow card.
Ryan Porteous looked to have added a third for Hibs, but unsurprisingly, the Icelandic referee wasn’t happy with something and decided to rule out the header. Nisbet had the ball in the net a couple of minutes later and this time the flag was up for offside.
The Scotland international did manage to get on the scoresheet with 10 minutes remaining though with a deft finish across the goalkeeper.
Here are things we learned.
It could’ve been a difficult night for Hibs after Newell was given his marching orders. However, they showed a huge amount of character to put themselves in a comfortable position heading into the second leg in Andorra next Thursday.
Icelandic referee Thorarinsson had nightmare from the first to the last minute. It’s not nice to hammer a referee entirely for his performance, but his display left a lot to be desired and could have caused Hibs big problems.
Rijeka in sight
It’s looks likely that Hibs will face Croatian side HNK Rijeka in the third qualifying round after they won their first leg comfortably against Gzira United. The Croatian side have faced Aberdeen on a few occasions.
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