FK RFS 1
P. Steinbors, Z. Lipuscek, V. Jagodinskis, A. Jatta, P. Mares, T. Saric, S. Panic, D. Rakels (57 C. Kouadio), E. Deocleciano, A. Zjuzins (33 V. Fjodorovs) (77 E. Stuglis), A. Ilic.
I.Kone; Thaylor, R. Soares, G. Llerena, F. Apap (89 L. Fonseca), G. Artilles, J. Degabriele (83 B. Kristensen), A. Diakite, D. Vella (59 A. Attard), J. Grech, Y. Muritala (83 T. Groothusen).
Referee Genc Nuza (Kosovo FA).
Yellow cards Thaylor, Vella, Zjuzins, Emerson, Diakite, Soares, Haber, Saric, Kone.
Red card Thaylor (Hibernians) 28.
Missed penalty Petr Mares (FK RFS) 50.
Hibernians battled bravely to secure a vital 1-1 draw against FK RFS in Latvia in the first leg of the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
It was a long evening for the Paolites as they had to play for over an hour with ten men after Thaylor was given the marching orders midway into the first half.
Despite being in a numeric disadvantage, Hibernians managed to draw first blood through Dunstan Vella’s first European goal.
The hosts stepped up their game especially in the second half but they could only beat Ibrahim Kone once.
The Hibernians’ goalkeeper had an inspired evening as he denied the Latvian champions on numerous occasions, including from the penalty spot early in the second half.
Hibs’ coach Andrea Pisanu deployed forward Yunusa Muritala from the start who was previously on the books of FC Metta and Rigas FC in Latvia.
Late in the game, the Italian coach welcomed back captain Bjorn Kristensen who returned to the field after a long absence due to his ACL injury and his European ban.
Hosts FK RFS almost forged ahead after seven minutes when Deniss Rakels guided a cross towards goal just to see defender Ferdinando Apap clear his effort on the goal line.
FK RFS continued to pile the pressure on Hibernians with centre back Ziga Lipuscek firing a long-range effort but Ibrahim Kone managed to divert it into corner.
The first 20 minutes were crucial for Hibernians as why they struggled to move the ball upwards, they made sure to stay organised and focused to avoid trailing early in the game.
Jurgen Degabriele produced Hibernians’ first opportunity when he let fly a strike from the outside the penalty area but could not hit the target.
Midway into the first half, Hibernians were handed a heavy blow when right wingback Thaylor was given a second yellow card after a retaliation according to the match official.
Moments later, Hibernians almost drew first blood when Rodolfo Soares met a freekick but his header went inches wide.
FK Rigas’ goalkeeper Pavels Steinbors was forced into action by Dunstan Vella when the Hibernians’ midfielder headed a free kick towards goal from close-range.
Nonetheless, the Latvian goalkeeper could do nothing when Vella hit a brilliant volley from a set piece situation and sent into the far post to put Hibernians one up.
On the brink of half-time, FK Rigas’ Alfusainey Jatta struck a volley from inside the penalty area but sailed over the bar.
Just before half-time, Andrej Ilic met a brilliant cross with a towering header but his effort was not enough to beat Kone as Hibernians preserved their one-goal lead at half-time.
After the interval, FK RFS came close to level terms through forward Ilic but he could not find the net from inside the small area.
The hosts were given the opportunity to restore parity when Emerson was floored by Soares inside the penalty area.
Nonetheless, left back Mares failed to convert from the spot as he was denied by Guinea international Kone.
Five minutes from time, Hibernians conceded the leveller when a long throw-in from Jatta was flicked by Stefan Panic onto the feet of Ilic who beat his marker and struck the ball past Kone.
The Serbian forward almost doubled the score for the hosts when he found himself unmarked in the box but his low drive went wide.
In stoppage time, Hibernians’ goalkeeper Kone came to his team’s rescue with a brilliant save on the goal line to deny Elvis Stugli.
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