Hibs 0 IF Elfsborg 2

Last updated : 06 July 2008 By Ed_ScottishFitba
IF Elfsborg took the expected firm grip of the Intertoto Cup game against Hibs and eased to a commanding and comfortable first-leg lead at Easter Road. The Swedish side, who are second in their domestic top flight and have lost only one game during their opening 12 league fixtures and lost only three goals, were by far the superior side in the second-round meeting. Goals in either half from Emir Bajrami and Andreas Augustsson put the Swedish side in the driving seat ahead of the return leg in Boras next Saturday. Hibs, back in pre-season training for just a fortnight and playing their first game, were sadly lacking in sharpness and devoid of inspiration as they surrendered a sizeable advantage. Elfsborg, well-organised in defence and physical and threatening in attack, now look firm favourites to meet Latvian outfit FK Riga or Dublin's Bohemians in the battle for a UEFA Cup spot. Given Hibs' short summer break of barely a month, it was hardly surprising the visitors made the stronger start.

Just three minutes in and Denni Avdic fed the ball through to Daniel Mobaeck and the striker was only denied when Yves Ma-Kalambay dived bravely at his feet. Ma-Kalambay had been restored to the number one shirt despite John McNeil ending last season strongly for the Leith side. Hibs took time to settle and after nine minutes Ian Murray drove forward on the left, feeding Dean Shiels near the by-line. The Northern Irishman did brilliantly to twist and swing a cross towards the near post where Scotland star Steven Fletcher flashed a header over. However, the Swedes grabbed a well-worked away goal just 7 minutes later. Former Southampton midfielder Anders Svensson, who started all off Sweden's EURO2008 games, flicked a neat ball down the left which eluded the Hibs rearguard. Bajrami ghosted into the penalty area and calmly opened his body to place a neat shot across the helpless Ma-Kalambay and into the right-hand corner. Hibs went searching for a quick response and Shiels was again involved, this time on the left, as he cut the ball back for the on-rushing Filipe Morais. The Portuguese midfielder took aim from 18 yards but Johan Wiland, Sweden's back-up keeper at the summer finals, dived to his right to make a superb stop. Svensson, by some distance the best player on the park, then clipped a sublime ball over the Hibs defence but Mobaeck sliced wide with only Ma-Kalambay to beat. The lively Shiels tried his luck again for the home side in the 39th minute, cutting in from the right to drive a left-footed shot towards goal that Wiland plucked out of the air.

Mixu Paatelainen made a change at the break, taking captain Rob Jones off and replacing him with Martin Canning at centre-half. The new arrival was soon involved, stopping a near certain goal when he deflected Avdic's near-post effort wide. Hibs' lack of sharpness remained evident and Bajrami was next to be denied, this time Ma-Kalambay rushing out to the edge of his area after the goalscorer had made a surging run. The home support were growing frustrated at Hibs' failure to gain at foothold and Brian Kerr was jeered off as Ross Chisholm came on after 55 minutes. Despite the chnage, the Swedes remained in the ascendancy and centre-half Augustsson came close to a decisive second goal when he rose unchallenged to power in a 10-yard header that John Rankin nodded off the line at the near post. Fletcher offered hope on 63 minutes, latching on to a loose ball to turn and strike a left-footed 20-yard effort that seemed destined for the bottom corner until Wiland pushed out a hand. It was to prove a key save as Elfsborg immediately raced back up the pitch to double their advantage with a goal straight from the training ground. From a corner, Svensson rolled the ball towards the edge of the penalty area and Augustsson took advantage of poor marking to fire home a low drive from 20 yards that appeared to take a deflection as it eluded Ma-Kalambay. Mobaeck soon passed up a golden opportunity for a third as he screwed wide from the corner of the six-yard box. In injury-time, Avdic cannoned a shot off the post to spare Hibs more blushes. Hibs have a mountain to climb if they want to stay in Europe and will travel to Sweden knowing a Scottish team has never come back from a home leg deficit in European competition.

Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)

Admin Team (admin@scottishfitba net)

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