Two draws between these sides at Easter Road this season, 1-1 in the league before a stalemate in the Betfred Cup quarter-final saw the Dons come out victorious on penalty kicks. How would two of last season’s top four fare at Pittodrie on a Friday night under the lights this time round?
Just the one change made by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes for the Hibernian game, following their 2-1 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. Stevie May would come in to partner James Wilson up front, replacing Dominic Ball in the starting 11.
It was to be four changes for Neil Lennon’s Hibernian. Darren McGregor started at the back along with young Ryan Porteous. Vykintas Slivka came into midfield. And, after scoring 17 between them last season, Florian Kamberi returned to partner Jamie Maclaren in attack for the first time this season. Marvin Bartley, Steven Whittaker, Daryl Horgan and Emerson Hyndman all made way.
Going against the stats early on?
Hibs haven’t won in Aberdeen since a 2-1 victory in 2012 saw a then relegation-threatened Hibs move five points clear of the relegation spot. How times have changed. They would have the first chance in this game following Stevie Mallan’s free kick, inadvertently falling to Mark Milligan. His header was scrambled away by Shay Logan.
Hibernian under Neil Lennon have only beaten Aberdeen once, a 2-0 victory back in February. Another Mallan set piece, this time a corner, found the head of Darren McGregor. McGregor’s header fell against Shay Logan again and the rebound fell to Kamberi who reluctantly pulled the trigger. It was blocked by Scott McKenna as Graeme Shinnie eventually cleared.
Ironic that the home side’s first chance also came from a free kick. Gary Mackay-Steven sending it in low to find James Wilson. Having peeled off his man, his shot deflected off Darren McGregor.
GMS is so often the danger man for Aberdeen. After receiving from Logan, he spun Porteous inside out before sending a hanging cross into the area. Great header from Darren McGregor inbetween the two Aberdeen strikers as Mark Milligan cleared the danger, Aberdeen believing he handled before doing so.
It would be five minutes before the interval that Aberdeen would take the lead through guess who… Gary Mackay-Steven. A Ryan Porteous pass left Lewis Stevenson short and with GMS’ pace, he left both of them in a flash before rifling a long-range effort past Bogdan into the bottom right hand corner.
The keeper, diving down to his left got nowhere near it. A hat-trick in this very fixture last year, a fabulous strike from the winger this time making it five goals in seven games against the Hibees. A very impressive record indeed.
Hibernian keep coming forward
Stevie Mallan’s corner was narrowly flashed over by Mark Milligan, Hibs captain on the night, at the beginning of the second half. Milligan, having gone close, was also looking to create to draw the visitors level.
The Aussie’s through ball was inch-perfect in behind Mikey Devlin. The Swiss striker took it past Joe Lewis, caught in no man’s land before rather selfishly trying to score from a tight angle when he should’ve perhaps crossed for his strike partner, Jamie Maclaren in a much better position than the former Grasshopper man.
However, Aberdeen could’ve and probably should’ve put the game beyond Hibernian later on. A Max Lowe clearance turned into a terrific through ball and Stevie May lobbed the onrushing Bogdan. What appeared to be a great chance to end his goal drought, only with two this calendar year, turned into an excellent recovery from Darren McGregor.
Having been accompanied by defender, the forward was to be denied, McGregor hooking out for a throw in. The chip allowed him to get back despite it being a smart idea from the hitman.
Defence to attack
That clearance nearly proved to be vital. Hibs came forward through Martin Boyle who found Vykintas Slivka as the two appeared to be in one another’s positions. The Lithuanian centred for Flo Kamberi with an excellent ball into the box, the number 22 was unlucky to see his flick take a wee nick off Devlin and just trickle wide.
End-to-end at the end
Nice interplay from Aberdeen through GMS, Logan and Graeme Shinnie saw the latter send an effort goalward only to be denied by a fantastic block from Efe Ambrose, who also cleared James Wilson’s follow up cross.
Martin Boyle’s cross was then missed by Kamberi, not his night after a handful of chances as Hibs returned to the capital with nothing.
Aberdeen, on a rich vein of form, next travel to Fir Park to take on Motherwell. Hibs host basement boys Dundee.