John McGinn started despite interest from Celtic as Hibernian edged a crazy 10-goal second leg against Runavik in their Europa League qualifier.
Arriving with a 6-1 lead from the first leg, Efe Ambrose’s own goal and the first of Klaemint Olsen’s hat-trick left Hibs stunned within six minutes.
McGinn started Hibs’ comeback, Lewis Stephenson added their second, but the sides were level at 3-3 at half-time.
Ambrose scored at the other end and Stevie Mallan grabbed two more.
That second-half flurry meant Hibs avoided the embarrassment that looked possible at one stage against a side who sit fifth in the Faroe Islands Premier League midway through the 2018 season and have never progressed after a European tie over two legs.
And Neil Lennon’s side progress to face Asteras Tripolis, who finished fifth in the Greek Superleague last season, in the second round of qualifying next week.
Runavik had defeated Linfield 4-3 at home in 2015 and edged out Dinamo Tbilisi 1-0 seven years earlier only to exit on aggregate.
However, despite the match being moved to the 6,000-capacity Toftir venue from Runavik’s much smaller stadium, the sparse crowd was an indication that the home support had little belief that their side could record even another consolation victory.
It seemed like the only talking point of the evening would be the decision of head coach Lennon to field McGinn, who had missed the first leg through injury, thus ruling him out of Celtic’s Champions League qualifying campaign should the Glasgow club be successful with a third summer approach.
That was until an opening few minutes that can only be described as a defensive shambles at both ends – and the mad goal rush that followed:
- Hibs, bereft of Paul Hanlon’s steadying influence in central defence through injury, fall behind within a minute as Jann Benjaminsen’s low cross was sliced into his own net by Ambrose.
- Pol Johannus Justinussen’s low cross from the other wing is bundled past goalkeeper Paul Bogdan by Olsen.
- Gray’s cross to the back post is half-volleyed home by McGinn from close range.
- From Mallan’s clever cut-back at a corner, Lewis Stevenson thunders a 20-yard drive in off a post.
- Runavik are back in front when Justinussen again lays the ball into the path of Olsen, whose low drive from the edge of the box nestles in the corner.
- Gray volleys home from close range at the back post in first-half stoppage time.
- Ambrose gives Hibs the lead with a close-range finish from a Mallan free-kick five minutes after the break as a thick mist descends on the pitch.
- Olsen pounces on a poor backheader from Ryan Porteous to cleverly chip the advancing Bogdan.
- Mallan, Hibs’ summer signing from Barnsley, curls a fine 30-yard free-kick into the top corner.
- Mallan again as his dipping drive from long range loops over deceived goalkeeper Eli Joensen.
The fog that momentarily threatened an abandonment had cleared by the final whistle, Hibs progress, but they will leave the Faroes under a bit of a cloud with Lennon no doubt breathing fire after conceding four goals against the part-time hosts.