Hibs will contest the Scottish Cup semi-finals after a dramatic 4-2 penalty shootout victory over Motherwell, following a 2-2 draw after extra-time.
Jackson Irvine’s goal 11 minutes from time looked to be enough to send Hibs into the semi-finals after they opened the scoring through Christian Doidge. But Tony Watt’s introduction handed Motherwell attacking impetus, the striker’s header and Rickie Lamie’s effort sending the game to extra-time and then penalties.
Mark O’Hara sent his shot for Motherwell over the bar then Kevin Nisbet missed a chance to fire Hibs into the semi-finals as Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly made an excellent save. Ryan Porteous’ powerful effort sent the home side into their fourth consecutive domestic semi-final after a dramatic encounter.
Nisbet fired a shot just wide of the post while Motherwell’s Allan Campbell made home goalkeeper Matt Macey work with a diving save during a cagey opening 45 minutes. It was always going to be that way as Motherwell matched Hibs’ shape.
Last time out at Easter Road, the visitors won 2-0 with a narrow 4-3-3, but had to adapt to cope with the loss of key attacker Jordan Roberts in this one via a 3-5-2 system. It had worked in stifling Hibs’ attack.
Easter Road manager Jack Ross had set his front trio of Martin Boyle, Doidge and Nisbet the target of 50 combined goals before the end of the season prior to this contest. But none of them were overly effective as Motherwell’s defensive players held firm.
Motherwell’s system wasn’t creating much at all with Campbell’s effort the highlight alongside a mazy Christopher Long run. The game’s first clear chance presented the first goal, Paul McGinn’s cross finding Doidge free to head home 52 minutes in.
He should have doubled Hibs’ lead three minutes later as he had the chance to knock into the net from two yards out, but Doidge hit the roof of the net with his big chance. Motherwell had progressively got deeper and deeper and needed a response before Hibs took the game away from them.
Cole provided one, racing through one-on-one with Macey but the Hibs keeper stood tall to deny the Motherwell strike. It would come back to haunt the away side as Hibs broke on the counter-attack, Boyle teeing up Nisbet for a shot which Irvine turned into the net.
It wasn’t over yet as Motherwell raced up the park and got one back, Lamie’s pass off an away corner finding its way into the net nine minutes from time. Watt had sparked Motherwell’s attack from the bench and his impact was causing Hibs all sorts of problems. Reward was to come, Stephen O’Donnell’s deep cross looped into the net by the influential ‘Well forward.
The game was sent to extra-time as Motherwell appeared to have more energy about them than their hosts. Neither created many chances but Motherwell gifted the hosts one huge opening, Nathan McGinley and Declan Gallagher getting muddled up and forcing Kelly into a massive save from Boyle with his foot.
A late melee of bodies resulted in Alex Gogic’s dismissal for a second booking as Hibs headed for penalties with 10 men. Boyle and Cole thumped home the first two spot-kicks before Motherwell’s O’Hara skied his over the bar. Kelly’s save from Nisbet provided hope but Porteous blasted Hibs into the semi-final. Here are three things we learned.
While Motherwell defended fairly well in this match, they had little attacking flair prior to Watt’s arrival from the bench. Returning from injury, he provided his team with a spark that they desperately needed. But it wasn’t enough as heartbreak descended.
The old ghosts seemed to haunt Hibs as the game wore on. Many have criticised the Easter Road club for not winning in the big games and spurning a 2-0 lead with 11 minutes to go suggested a similar path. But they held their nerve and got over the line.
This tie switched from one of the quietest 45’s of the tournament to one of the liveliest. Hibs’ pressure on the ball paid off but Motherwell showed great heart and determination to take this tie all the way.
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