A VAR controversy, a strong penalty appeal, a red card and a whole heap of chances added up to nothing more rewarding than Hampden heartache for Hibs, as they lost their Viaplay Cup semi-final to a breakaway Aberdeen goal.
Despite dominating for long spells, Nick Montgomery’s men paid heavily for their inability to find the net – and to capitalise on the Dons being reduced to 10 men courtesy of a supremely daft red card with about a quarter of an hour of the 90 minutes remaining.
When Bojan Miovski scored on a counterattack just moments later, totally against the run of play, the air of disbelief among Hibs fans mixed with frustration over a genuine opportunity missed.
It should have been Monty’s team returning to the national stadium for the final on December 17. If only they could have found a goal in a contest always likely be settled by first strike.
In a first half of football veering between the strictly functional and the borderline brutal, Hibs did at least manage to get a few sightings on the Aberdeen goal.
If their most promising moment came for a decidedly patient build-up, Jair Tavares seeing his goal-bound shot deflected after Joe Newell and Jordan Obita had combined to good effect on the left flank, their most consistent attacking threat came from simply using their pace in pursuit of a ball over the top or into the channels.
A counterattack involving Elie Youan and Boyle with just eight minutes gone was only thwarted by a brilliant sliding interception from Connor Barron, who flew into deflect the ball over his own net when a goal seemed certain.
Boyle’s pace was a constant danger to the Dons and, with Hibs winning a series of corners, the men in red also had to cope with a fair share of set-piece threats.
Newell and Youan both had attempts on goal from corners not fully cleared by Aberdeen. The Hibs skipper also sent a tame right-footed shot straight at Kelle Roos after cutting in from the left wing.
It certainly looked – at first viewing AND after the replays shown by host broadcaster and competition sponsor Viaplay – as if Boyle had opened the scoring a little under four minutes into the second half.
The Socceroos star appeared to have judged his run perfectly, plucking a Will Fish ball out of the night sky with a sublime touch and slotting a shot beyond Roos.
After nearly four minutes of VAR deliberation, however, referee John Beaton was informed that Boyle was offside when the ball was played.
If that decision annoyed Hibs fans, they were infuriated when Dylan Vente saw a very strong penalty claim waves aside moments later, Roos taking none of the ball – but all of the centre forward – when scrambling for a spilled shot.
The fact that VAR didn’t even take a second look at the incident rather summed up the inconsistencies that continue to bedevil a system continually undermined by human error.
When Vente saw a thumping strike blocked by Nicky Devlin with 65 minutes gone, Hibs might have begun to feel that this wasn’t going to be their night.
Two bookings in the space of 14 minutes for Jack MacKenzie – the second a silly shove on Lewis Miller, also booked for the exchange of pleasantries – saw the Dons wingback depart.
So, football being football, everyone knew what would happen next, right? Hibs lose the ball on the edge of the Aberdeen box, Miller almost – but not quite – manages to win the ball back, Miovski is sent clear … and makes no mistake with a low left-footed strike.
Miovski had one more chance a strong penalty appeal of his own waved aside as Aberdeen continued to go long against a Hibs side growing increasingly desperate in their pursuit of an equaliser.
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