A John McGinn goal early in the second half gave Hibs a 1-0 win at Dens Park. The visitors had the better of the first half but Dundee competed much more effectively after the break. Both teams missed a succession of fine chances, and both goalkeepers excelled in their efforts to keep the score down.
Jack Hendry, Jesse Curran and Faissal El Bakhtaoui all came into Dundee’s starting eleven. Darren O’Dea and Scott Allan moved onto the bench and Sofien Moussa was suspended as the Dee lined up with three at the back. Hibs made two changes; Olly Shaw and Marvin Bartley made way for Simon Murray and Brandon Barker.
The Dark Blues kicked off and then hardly crossed the halfway line for the next ten minutes. Hibs were running the midfield and set up a series of attacks without looking particularly dangerous. The Dee just couldn’t settle on the ball but managed to produce the first shot on target, after 14 minutes. At the end of a good move Faissal El Bakhtaoui’s shot from Jesse Curran’s cross was well saved by Ofir Marciano. Hibs immediately responded with their first really penetrating attack. A fine low cross by Vykintas Slivka flew across goal with John McGinn inches away from connecting. From the resulting corner Paul Hanlon’s close range header was blocked by Elliott Parish.
Dundee’s best, and only real chance of the first half followed some lovely footwork from Glen Kamara in the build up. Jon Aurtenetxe’s cross would have been perfect for a big striker, but found Paul McGowan in space six yards out and he glanced his header well wide of goal.
After the midway point of the first half the match became much more even. Dundee were more comfortable in midfield, holding the ball better and building the odd promising attack. Too often, however, moves were spoiled by poor decisions in good positions.
On balance the first half belonged to Hibs, and few Dundee supporters would have been disappointed at the game being goalless when the referee signalled half time.
The second half started promisingly for the Dee with Mark O’Hara surging into the penalty area and flashing his shot narrowly wide. However, it was Hibs who broke the deadlock after 51 minutes. Efe Ambrose crossed to the near post where Simon Murray managed to turn the ball back to John McGinn. The ball came awkwardly to McGINN, who had his back to goal, but he spun quickly to score with a low shot from ten yards.
The Dark Blues came close to a quick equaliser. A tackle on A-Jay Leitch-Smith deflected the ball nicely into the path of Paul McGowan, leaving him with a clear run on goal. Sadly he pulled his shot across goal and wide.
Neil McCann changed the shape of the team by sending on Scott Allan for Jesse Curran. The Dee switched to four at the back, but with the full backs continuing to push forward. The Dee were pressing hard for an equaliser and were almost caught out by Brandon Barker’s fast break that ended with the Hibs wide player shooting into the side netting.
The Dee were soon back on the attack and a cross from Aurtenetxe almost set up the equaliser. Mark O’Hara met it eight yards out and did everything right. His header was powerful and accurate, heading low just inside the post, but Marciano stunned everyone in the ground with an astonishing save.
Within a minute Elliott Parish was called into action with a save that was not a patch on Marciano’s; it was merely very good. Again Barker broke away, this time for a clear run through on goal, but Parish managed to block.
John McGinn had already been booked and was ea lucky man to stay on the park after stopping a break by scything Glen Kamara down from behind. It was a huge let off for Hibs when the referee, Mr Robertson, awarded the free kick but took no further action. The Hibs midfielder had been highly influential and he would remain the visitors’ key player for the rest of the game.
The game continued with Dundee pressure and Hibs looking dangerous on the break. Marciano pushed Cammy Kerr’s drive round the post and O’Hara had two shots blocked from the corner. A goal seemed sure to arrive, at one end or the other, but both teams kept passing up chances.
The most glaring miss came from Hibs after Danny Swanson got the break of the ball following a Kerr tackle. The substitute was able to run in along the byline and tried to set up Simon Murray for a tap in, but the former Dundee United striker miskicked with Martin Boyle unable to respond as the ball unexpectedly flying in his direction. Murray had no more luck with two half chances from awkward positions and Parish saved each time.
Dundee’s two final substitutions brought Kevin Holt and Matty Henvey into the action, replacing Aurtenetxe and El Bakhtaoui. Henvey came agonisingly close to an equaliser after 88 minutes. Cammy Kerr’s cross found him six yards out but he sent his header wide.
In the three minutes of injury time Hibs were largely able to keep hold of the ball and protect their lead. They did manage a couple of shots, from Swanson and substitute Olly Shaw, which were both turned over the bar by Parish.
Over the whole match Hibs did enough to claim they deserved the win, but this was a game that was unpredictable right to the end. Both goalkeepers deserved enormous credit for their performances, but on numerous occasions they should have been left helpless. A game with so many missed chances could have swung either way, and Hibs will be relieved their key man John McGinn managed to get the only goal. Dundee missed the presence in attack that Sofien Moussa and Marcus Haber can offer and Hibs’ defenders were able to outmuscle Dundee’s more diminutive attackers regularly, and were usually able to deal with high balls into the box.
The Dark Blues didn’t play badly tonight, but they didn’t play well enough over the full match. If Mark O’Hara’s header had found the net midway through the second half the remaining 25 minutes could have been very interesting but, just as at Easter Road in November, a superb save by Ofir Marciano proved decisive.
Dundee FC 3-4-2-1
Kerr (c), Hendry, Meekings, Aurtenetxe (Holt 77)
Curran (Allan 57), O’Hara, Kamara, Aurtenetxe
McGowan, El Bakhtaoui (Henvey 81)
Unused subs: Malherbe (gk), O’Dea, Etxabeguren, Wolters.
Booked: Hendry (foul on McGinn), Aurtenetxe (foul on Boyle), Kamara (foul on McGinn).
Ambrose, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson
Boyle (MacLaren 81), Slivka, McGinn, Barker (Swanson 77)
Simon Murray (Shaw 89)
Unused subs: Dabrowski (gk), Rherras, Fraser Murray, Porteous.
Goal: McGinn (51).
Booked: McGinn (foul on El Bakhtaoui), Murray (foul on Kamara).
Attendance: 5,323 (940 away fans).
Referee: Don Robertson. Assistants: Kylie Cockburn, Mark McLean. Fourth Official: Mat Northcroft.
Report: James Christie.