Hibs do it the hard way as penalties send them to Hampden
Hibernian made it to the Scottish Cup semi-final after requiring penalties to squeeze past Motherwell in a quarter final thriller. Callum Watt reports.
While the first half was a bit drab, with neither team foraging any clear-cut chances, a second half Christian Doidge header and Jackson Irvine strike gave Hibs a commanding 2-0 lead going into the final ten minutes.
However, Rickie Lamie scored a volley and Tony Watt equalised late on for the Steelmen to take the game to extra time.
Alex Gogic saw red but Ryan Porteous took advantage of some poor ‘Well penalties to send the Hibees to Hampden.
Hibernian and Motherwell came into this Scottish Cup quarter-final looking to book their place at Hampden. Hibs were aiming to make it to their third semi-final of this season, having comfortably beaten League Two side Stranraer in the previous round.
Jack Ross made two changes to his squad which saw off Livingston on Wednesday and confirmed European football will be returning to Leith. Matt Macey replaced Israeli Ofir Marciano in goal as per for Hibs’ recent cup games, and Josh Doig returned in place of Lewis Stevenson after recovering from a knock.
Motherwell came into this one with their sights set on a first Scottish Cup semi since 2018 and a first Scottish Cup win at Easter Road since 1931. Graham Alexander, who was delighted with his side’s performance last time out at Hibs, named an unchanged team from their impressive 1-0 win in the midweek Lanarkshire Derby.
Hibs started the game brightly with Martin Boyle firing in two excellent crosses from the right inside five minutes but neither Christian Doidge nor Doig managed to connect. Kevin Nisbet then fired a low shot just wide of Liam Kelly’s bottom left corner.
A clumsy tackle on Devante Cole allowed Motherwell a free kick, but Mark O’Hara’s effort was straight at Matt Macey. As the half wore on, Motherwell were happy to drop deep and defend crosses from Paul McGinn and Doig as their deliveries evaded all teammates.
Gogic was effectively anchoring the Hibs midfield and found Nisbet on the edge of the box, who rode a challenge and got the break of the ball against Allan Campbell, but dragged his low, powerful strike just wide.
Campbell got a shot away in the 32nd minute after he disposed Jackson Irvine in the middle of the park, but his effort from 20 yards was comfortably palmed away by Macey.
As half-time beckoned, a Doidge glancing header dropped just wide of Kelly’s net and Gogic picked up the first yellow card of the match for a clattering middle-of-the-park challenge on Campbell.
The second half began as the first half ended, with Hibs seeing more of the ball but clear-cut chances few and far between, other than a couple of corners which were easily dealt with by the ‘Well rearguard.
The opener came in the 52nd minute when full-back McGinn was granted enough time on the right flank to whip in a pinpoint, curling cross for Doidge, who met it perfectly and knocked a powerful header beyond Kelly to give the hosts the advantage.
Soon after, Cole looked to get Motherwell back on level terms as he beat Hibs captain Paul Hanlon, but his effort from inside the box was met with a fine save from Macey who deflected it behind.
The flow of the match looked to be changing as Motherwell ramped up their efforts and pushed forward to find an equaliser. Long flashed a low ball into the box but Cole couldn’t get there on time to convert what would’ve been a tap-in.
With just 11 minutes remaining, the Hibees doubled their lead and looked certain to progress to the semi-finals. Irvine was the scorer after some lovely play saw Boyle’s shot blocked and Nisbet pass the rebound to Irvine to fire in from close range.
Motherwell clawed one back almost immediately and out the blue, with Lamie scoring a looping volley into Macey’s bottom left corner. The defender knocked a speculative cross-come-shot back into the danger area from the edge of the box and it crept in at the far post beyond the ‘keeper.
The final five minutes were nervy for the Easter Road outfit, as Motherwell threw bodies forward looking for a goal to take it to extra time but the Hibs defence stood strong. That was until Tony Watt stepped up.
The ex-Hearts man, who replaced Magloire in the 68th minute, snatched a late equaliser for the visitors with two minutes remaining. Stephen O’Donnell fired in a cross from the right which found the head of Watt, who was completely unmarked and headed home.
Hibs were rattled as Graham Alexander’s men maintained their pressure and looked to sneak a winner right until John Beaton signalled the end of regular time.
The first 15 minutes of extra time came and went with little to shout about for either team – the midfield battle wore on and crosses were coming in from all angles, but they were dealt with or overhit.
Melker Hallberg, who replaced Newell in the middle of the park, fired a free kick just over the bar from around 30 yards, and Nisbet had a header saved by Kelly.
The end-to-end game saw another delicious cross from O’Donnell, which was just begging for a touch from Steven Lawless or Cole, but the ball went behind harmlessly for a goal kick.
Tempers flared with a minute to go as Hallberg was hauled down by Lawless and a melee ensued. Gogic raised his hands towards O’Donnell and the referee brandished a second yellow for the Cypriot.
The resulting free kick came to nothing and the full-time whistle sounded – penalties, something no one reasonably foresaw in the 80th minute, were required to determine who progressed to the next round.
Boyle stepped up first for the Hibees and smashed his effort down the middle to give Hibs the lead in the shootout. Cole was next up for Motherwell and his rocket into the top left-hand corner evened the score.
Hallberg placed his penalty into the bottom left hand corner, before O’Hara smashed Motherwell’s second high over the bar. Advantage Hibees.
McGinn produced a similar strike into the bottom corner, and Lawless missed Motherwell’s third penalty, rattling his effort off the post.
Up stepped Nisbet, knowing a well-taken penalty would send his side back to Hampden, but his effort was saved. It was then the turn of Long to make the long walk from the centre circle and he slotted the ball just beyond the grasp of Macey, who dived the right way.
Hibs had insurance in the shootout, though, and centre back Ryan Porteous’ penalty into the bottom right corner booked Hibs’ place at Hampden for the third time this season and for their 7th Scottish Cup semi in 10 years.
Overall, an excellent cup tie for the neutral and one which had it all – goals, a last minute equaliser, a red card and some penalties to top it off.
- Hibs do it the hard way – With a 2-0 lead, Hibs looked a stick-on to be in the hat for the final four, but they bottled it with ten minutes remaining and were under some serious Motherwell pressure for a spell. Jack Ross won’t be happy with his team’s near-collapse, but in cup football, only the result matters.
- Motherwell can do both – In the first half, The Steelmen looked happy to sit in and soak up Hibs’ pressure, and they did to great effect. Once they went behind, however, they pushed men forward and caused Hibs a number of issues. Graham Alexander may be disappointed it took until then to cause any real threat.
- Hibs are a good cup team – This is now their 7th Scottish Cup semi-final in 10 years, and they’ll be looking to go all the way like they did in 2016. However, they’ve recently struggled to get past the semi-final stage, losing three in the past two seasons – a run Jack Ross will be desperate to end.
Hibernian can sit back and watch the remaining quarter-finals this weekend, safe in the knowledge that their name is safely in the hat. Aberdeen take on Dundee United, Rangers face off against St Johnstone, and Kilmarnock play St Mirren. The semi-final draw will take place immediately after Monday night’s match in Kilmarnock, with games being played at Hampden on the weekend of the 8th and 9th May.
It’s back to Premiership action for both sides next Saturday, as the run-in heats up. Hibs welcome St Johnstone to Leith as they look to cement their grip on that coveted third spot, and Motherwell face Kilmarnock at Fir Park as they seek to leapfrog Dundee United and St Mirren to finish top of the bottom six.