Kamberi gives Hibs win in Killie thriller
Kamberi gives Hibs win in Killie thriller
Florian Kamberi’s penalty returned Hibernian to winning ways after an enthralling contest at Easter Road.
Stevie Mallan’s sweet free-kick – his seventh goal of the season – gave Hibs the ideal start and David Gray’s bullet header from a corner doubled the lead.
But Kilmarnock hit back impressively, Eamonn Brophy’s back-heeled finish completing a fine team move before Greg Stewart curled home a crisp equaliser.
Kamberi’s spot-kick earned Hibs the points after Jamie Maclaren was felled.
Victory – their first in the league since the opening-day – lifted Neil Lennon’s side above their opponents and into fifth place, still seven points behind Edinburgh rivals Hearts.
This was only a third defeat in 14 games on the road for Kilmarnock, who might have secured a point but substitute Kris Boyd’s late header was tipped over by Adam Bogdan.
Mallan the man for a free-kick
Mallan was asked on Friday about becoming known as a free-kick specialist. He said he would “embrace” that label, adding “you always want to be known for something. All the top players are known for certain traits”.
Head coach Lennon set him a double-figure target for goals this season, but that will swiftly have to be revised with his sublime strike here – from around 27 yards – his seventh of the season, and his fourth direct from a free-kick.
The 22-year-old also spoke openly about his ambition to follow former team-mate John McGinn into the senior set-up, and his desire to score more goals from open play.
Mallan nearly added to his tally with another long-range effort in the first half that drifted narrowly wide, and was even closer with a similar strike early on the resumption.
Certainly national manager Alex McLeish will note the confidence coursing through the former St Mirren midfielder, who is flourishing again after a disappointing spell with Barnsley in the English Championship last season.
Another player enjoying a new lease of life is Stewart, who appears to be enjoying life at Kilmarnock after arriving on a season-long loan from Birmingham.
Stewart, 28, has had a couple of underwhelming seasons at first the Midlands club, and then on loan at Aberdeen last term.
But there were signs here of the form he showed in a productive spell at Dundee before his move south.
An early driving run saw him beat two players on the edge of the box before firing into the side-netting.
But he had a hand in the visitors’ opener, his lay-off feeding the marauding Stephen O’Donnell, whose first-time cross was back-heeled over the line by Brophy.
Brophy might have had a second when Bogdan saved with his feet, but Stewart’s equaliser was a thing of beauty, looking up and curling a sweet shot left-footed into the top corner.
‘Two serious contenders for goal of the season’ – Analysis
BBC Scotland’s John Barnes at Easter Road:
One former Hibs manager Bobby Williamson apparently said: “If you want entertainment, go to the cinema!” But today you really wanted to be at Easter Road – this was thoroughly entertaining.
Having produced an eight-goal thriller the last time they met in April, we were hoping for something similar and we weren’t disappointed.
By the time we reached half-time, it seemed players were trying out-do each other for not just the best goal of the day, but the season.
We had two serious contenders for the latter with Mallan’s free-kick setting the standard. The Hibs set-piece specialist then delivered the corner which Gray headed home for their second.
Killie’s response was an excellent team goal finished by Brophy before Stewart side-stepped Steven Whittaker to curl a brilliant 22-yard shot into the top left-hand corner of Bogdan’s net.
The second half showed the art of defending and counter-attacking as both sides looked for a winner. Wrong options were taken when through on goal, just to add to the drama.
But then came the controversial moment which led to Hibs’ winner when referee John Beaton awarded them a penalty which on first look appeared incorrect.
It appeared to this observer that Jamie Maclaren actually kicked the back of Kirk Broadfoot’s foot, but Hibs took full advantage to send the majority of the 17,622 crowd home happy.
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September 15, 2018 at 09:57AM