Swift, organised and clinical.
Hibernian were everything Aberdeen were not in their Easter Road demolition of a Dons side woefully off-colour.
Martin Boyle’s brace and another from Florian Kamberi blew Aberdeen out of the water, in a second-half display that exploited an ill-judged switch to a back three from the Dons that left their defensive frailties exposed.
Their output going forward was minimal but the ease with which Hibernian picked them apart in the second half gives greatest cause for concern.
Manager Derek McInnes said: “Hibs have been a bit anxious at home of late and if we got that first goal, it would have a major bearing on the game. We allow too much space for the pass to be made for the first goal but the pass shouldn’t be on.
“We’re guilty of allowing that space for Boyle to run into and he’s punished us emphatically.
“We then become the team that has all the possession and Hibs become the counter-attacking team. They punish us. The next two goals we lose possession in their half and they’ve punished us. I still think we can even make a foul to stop them getting in the box. Their attacking players took full advantage and it’s disappointing.”
McInnes opted for a lop-sided 4-2-3-1 at the start, with Greg Leigh playing wide on the left but deeper than James Wilson on the opposite flank.
Leigh’s positioning provided cover for Andy Considine at left-back, with Jason Naismith advancing from the right side of defence and Martin Boyle prone to drift wide from his central position behind the two strikers.
Leigh showed he could be an effective option going forward against Rangers, supplementing the Dons’ attack with his willingness to take on the opposite full-back and deliver tempting crosses into the box.
It was that change in formation at Pittodrie, which resulted in Jon Gallagher moving through the middle, that precipitated the Dons’ revival against Rangers, and McInnes kept faith with the same strategy.
Aside from a save apiece from Joe Lewis and Ofir Marciano, keeping out Stevie Mallan and Cosgrove respectively, neither stopper endured a busy first period.
The Dons hinted at clicking into gear with a couple of attacks, but interventions from Ryan Porteous and Melker Hallberg prevented them turning into anything serious.
Marciano’s intervention was required before the break to prevent a Dons counter breaking the deadlock, with first Wilson and then Cosgrove kept at bay by the hosts’ goalkeeper.
Gallagher’s eagerness to press works a treat when his team-mates follow his lead. But in the build-up to Hibs’ opening goal, you could see him gesturing to team-mates to get higher up the park and capitalise on a spell of Aberdeen pressure. As it was, the home side were able to play out of danger, with Scott Allan’s pass bisecting Scott McKenna and Considine to find Boyle.
He still had the proverbial “plenty to do” but remained composed, lifting the ball over the advancing Lewis to tap into an empty net.
The Dons had been negated as an attacking threat and needed a change. McInnes reverted to the 3-4-3 operated against St Mirren, making a triple change to try to put Hibs under some concerted pressure. But little chance was given for them to do so, with fantastic work from Kamberi – exchanging passes with Hallberg before releasing Boyle – allowing the goalscorer to race clear of Considine and clip Hibernian two in front.
McInnes said: “We’ve wanted more of an attacking threat – we had to force the issue and I still thought it was there to be won. I still thought there was something in the game for us if we take our opportunities.”
Kamberi, a source of frustration to Hibernian managers in the past, gave new manager Jack Ross the perfect audition to the type of player he can be, capping his afternoon with a wonderfully-taken solo goal, giving a vibrant Easter Road further reason to celebrate. McInnes, by contrast, was left scratching his head.
“It didn’t feel like a 3-0 game,” McInnes said. “The game was pretty even up until our second goal. We’ve been countered again for the third goal. Sometimes that’s the trade-off when you try to get back in the game. The quality they have at the top end of the pitch, they put us to the sword.”
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