Maribor 3-0 Hibernian
Hibernian suffered a disappointing return to European football with a 3-0 defeat against Maribor.
Hibernian were left with a huge mountain to climb after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Maribor in Slovenia. The thrashing leaves John Hughes' side with it all to play for at Easter Road if they are to make the play-off round of the Europa League.
A Josip Ilicic double and an impressive curling effort from Marcos Tavares left Hibs three goals down and the Slovenians threatened to score more despite Hughes' tactical changes.
Hughes knew he was in for a tough match in the Leith side’s return to European football, yet started without arguabl ytwo of his most dangerous players when he left both Anthony Stokes and Derek Riorden on the bench, favouring a lone striker in the shape of Colin Nish.
Maribor were the better side in the match and will have taken confidence from their two domestic victories and a previous round win over strong Hungarian side Videoton.
Hughes debuted defender Michael Hart and Dutch midfielder Edwin De Graaf with David Wotherspoon employed on the left of a five-man midfield; the body of Hughes’ ambition for a flowing, passing game.
Graham Stack featured in goals and demonstrated his ability early on as the Hibs defence clearly missed the presence of Sol Bamba, whose late arrival following his World Cup return left him out of the clash. Stack was up against it from the outset and blocked a strike from Dalibor Volas in the 17th minute and tipped away a close-range effort from Volas as Maribor dominated.
The wet conditions didn’t help the Edinburgh side, who eventually went 1-0 down in the 31st minute when Ilicic emerged from a box crowded by Hibs players to blast the ball in off the underside of the bar.
The goal seemed to motivate the visotors to claw one back and they almost did just before the interval as the side improved and enjoyed more possession.
Liam Miller collected a short pass from Wotherspoon before striking a swerving 25-yard effort that was pushed away by the outstretched hand of Maribor goalkeeper Marko Pridigar. Chris Hogg's header was then cleared from a crowded goal mouth after John Rankin delivered the resulting corner.
Hibs were pushing again at the outset of the second half when Nish had an effort blocked, but Maribor doubled their lead in the 52nd minute when Ilicic cleverly chipped Stack from 20 yards after Wotherspoon lost possession following a controversial sliding tackle by Armin Bacinovic.
Maribor were on the attack again shortly after and Stack was forced to dive down impressively to his left to block an effort from Tavares. However, it was Tavares who shot high on the hour mark and curled high into the corner from inside the box to make it 3-0.
With the Hibs fans calling for change, Hughes eventually made one in the 68th minute when Stokes and Riordan were sent on to rescue the tie in place of Nish and Kevin McBride.
Hibs began to enjoy more of the ball in the opposition half but they never looked like getting the away goal that would have left them with some hope to cling on to. Despite the change,it was Maribor who were still attacking and the final whistle saved the side from further punishment.