Despite playing for over an hour in ten men, Hibernians still managed to obtain a positive result as they held FK RFS of Latvia in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round at the Daugavas stadions in Riga on Thursday.
Ironically, after having a player sent off, the Paolites managed to take the lead and after RFS had a penalty neutralised by goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone, the Latvians rescued the game with a goal five minutes from time.
This means that everything remains to play for in the second leg on Thursday 11 where a place in the play-off round of the UEFA Europa Conference League will be at stake. In the play-off round, the winner would meet the team which will be eliminated from the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round clash between Linfield FC of Northern Ireland and FC Zürich of Switzerland.
Bjorn Kristensen was back for the Paolites after serving a four-match ban, being included as a late substitute with the only player ruled out being Andrei Agius who will return in the second leg.
RFS held the initiative in the early stages, going close to taking the lead after just six minutes with a Rakels header from close range which was blocked off the gaol line by Ferdinando Apap. Six minutes later, a Lipuscek effort was turned into a corner by Ibrahim Kone.
On the 26th minute, the Paolites received a major setback as Thaylor, who had earlier been cautioned for a foul, was booked once again and was therefore given marching orders by referee Genc Nuza.
However six minutes from the end of the first half, Hibernians managed to take the lead when off a Jurgen Degabriele freekick from the left, Yunisa Marital headed the ball in the direction of Dunstan Vella who slammed the ball home past goalkeeper Steinbors.
Four minutes in the second half, RFS had a golden opportunity to level matters when Rodolfo Soares brought Emerson Santana down inside the area but Petr Mares’ effort was neutralised by the Hibs goalkeeper.
However five minutes from time, RFS equalised when off a cross from the right, Panic headed the ball in the direction of Andrej Ilic who hit home from close range.
RFS Pavel Steinbors, Arturs Zjuzins (34′ Vladislavs Fjodorovs)(77′ Elvis Stuglis), Alfusainey Jatta, Andrej Ilic, Emerson Santana, Deniss Rakels (56′ Cedric Kouadio), Tomislav Saric, Petr Mares, Stefan Panic, Ziga Lipuscek, Vitalijs Jagodinskis.
HIBS Ibrahim Kone, Ferdinando Apap (89′ Lorenzo Soares Fonseca), Gonzalo Llerena, Jake Grech, Jurgen Degabriele (83′ Bjorn Kristensen), Dunstan Vella (59′ Ayrton Attard), Thaylor Aldama, Gabriel Izquier Artiles, Ali Diakite, Yunusa Muritala (83′ Terence Groothusen), Rodolfo Soares.
Referee: Genc Nuza KOS
Assistant Referees: Fatlum Berisha, Bujar Selimaj KOS
Fourth Official: Mervan Bejtullahu KOS