Hibernians bow out of Europa Conference League after 1-3 defeat to RFS

For the second consecutive year, Hibernians were eliminated from the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League by a team from Latvia after losing 1-3 to RFS in the second leg at the Centenary Stadium on Thursday.

RFS therefore move onto the play-off round where they will be facing Linfield of Northern Ireland for a place in the group stages of the competition.

The visitors held the initiative during the first half but the Hibs rear-guard kept their opponents under control.

However just before the end of the first half, RFS were awarded a penalty after Petr Marek’s run was halted by Gonzalo Llerena. A rather dubious decision by Ukrainian referee Kateryna Mosul. From the penalty spot, Petr Mares converted to hand RFS the lead. 

The match came to life in the second half as the Paolites went out in search of the equaliser and two minutes in the second half, Gabi Izquier hit just wide from the right. Five minutes later, Apap tested Steinbors with a powerful header from the right which was turned into a corner. 

RFS replied with a powerful drive by Friesenbichler from outside the area which was partially saved by Kone and the Guinean goalkeeper anticipated Kouadio before he could conclude off the rebound on 57 minutes.

On 61 minutes, Dunstan Vella delivered a fine cross and Ferdinando Apap just failed to connect by a whisker. Five minutes later, a cross shot by Marital was neutralised by Steinbors.

On 69 minutes, Hibs were awarded a penalty after Mares handled the ball off a cross by Jake Grech. From the penalty spot, Jake Grech converted. 

In a swift counter-attack on 74 minutes, Degabriele served Jake Grech on the right with the latter’s effort being turned into a corner by the RFS goalkeeper.

However, on 79 minutes, RFS regained the lead when Emerson Santana’s powerful shot was not held by Kone and Andrej Ilic hit home from close range. 

Three minutes from time, the Latvians sealed the issue when off an assist by Emerson Santana, Andrej Ilic slotted the ball past the helpless Kone.

HIBS Ibrahim Kone, Ferdinando Apap, Gonzalo Llerena Bravo, Jake Grech, Jurgen Degabriele, Dunstan Vella, Zachary Grech (60’ Bjorn Kristensen), Gabriel Izquier Artiles (90+2′ Joseph Zerafa), Yunusa Muritala, Ali Diakite (85’ Gabriel Mensah), Rodolfo Soares.

RFS Pavels Steinbors, Alfusainey Jatta, Emerson Santana, Cedric Kouadio (82’ Elvis Stuglis), Andrej Ilic, Petr Mares, Stefan Panic, Kevin Friesenbichler (89’ Deniss Rakeis), Ziga Lipuscek, Jovan Vlalukin, Vitalis Jagodinskis.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul UKR
Assistant Referees: Maryna Striletska, Svitlana Grushko UKR
Fourth official: Anastasiya Romanyuk UKR