Nippon celebrated it's second victory which was well deserved. The game started in a very different way the Japanese team wanted to. Some unfortunate misses made Hibs to score the opening goal in less than a min. Despite this accident, the team stood firm and restarted the game by immediately grabbing the game control by leveraging their short passes and high pressing style. Hibs mostly relied on long balls from their defense line but only a few of them created threats on Nippon goal. Some real threats came from middle shoots and free kicks, but Nippon managed to defend. However, another accident follows when Hibs delivered a great early cross right between the keeper and defense line. The defender tried to clear the ball but with a bit of hesitation, the ball was touched too softly and the ball went straight into the wide open goal. This goal certainly shocked the team. However, the team still managed to maintain their mental and made many efforts to control the game once again. The gloomy situation was suddenly cleared when Kike, the new joiner who just transferred to Nippon scored an unbelievable long shot from Nippon's end. This goal gave the team some air to breathe and the team regained strength. The first half ended 1-2 but the team knew that they can do it if they keep trying hard. In the second half, again, Kike gave the tailwind to Nippon. After grabbing a penalty kick from his challenge inside the box, the Spanish easily scored an equalizer. The drama didn't end here. Soon after, from an excellent through pass behind the defense line, Kike got another chance. He calmly executed a well controlled shoot and squeezed it into the opposite side net and score became 3-2. This goal made Hibs change their pace and they decided to deliver long and high balls as much as they can and grab an equalizer with their power and height. This worked well and Nippon struggled to shut out, but the team was eager to win and they cleared the ball again and again. Nippon also made quite a few chances but the amazing goal keeping didn't allow the fourth goal. In the last few minutes, Hibs was so close to the goal but they just couldn't get it. Kudos to the Nippon defenders! 3-2 full time. Overall, super competitive game and each team had a fair chance to win. Well played both and thank you very much to the refs who managed a difficult game.
Matchday morning started with breaking transfer news for the opposition. Never so fast has paperwork been readied, signed and filed in order for a player to make his debut, but nevertheless the transfer went through on time. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway, would it? Despite the news, Hibs had the dream start with a goal inside the 30 seconds with their first attack and we didn't even kick-off. Julio with the slide pass, Vasco with the finish. I am fairly certain that isn’t the last time you’re going to read that this season. 1-0 Hibs. As the first quarter played out, Nippon had more ball and pressed well, but was largely contained by strong defending across the Hibs team. No real chances were created and Hibs enjoyed their first water break a goal up. Second quarter and Hibs looked dangerous on the counter with several saves being forced of the Nippon keeper. Eventually the pressure told and a Julio cross was met by a Nippon defender, facing his own goal and turning into his own net. 2-0 Hibs. After a couple more good chances from corners, Hibs were looking strong eyeing up 2-0 at HT, with thoughts of an opposition new player seemingly forgotten. Maybe even they might get a third! And then… All of a sudden, Nippon’s new signing started to read the script that was written the moment the transfer was processed. Receiving the ball back to goal in his own half, touching it back in the packed midfield getting on the half turn, he released a strike of 60 yards that flew into the Hibs net. Goalkeeper no chance, no one saw it coming, especially Nippon. Individual brilliance. Great. Half time, 2-1 Hibs. The second half started with Nippon pressure on the Hibs goal. They were now on top with Hibs not being able to clear effectively. Despite repelling Nippon attacks, a goal seemed imminent and came from the penalty spot. Nippon’s new signing receiving the ball in the box, skipping round Jack to concede his customary penalty (ask Nick). Not sure even Jack could argue this one despite his best efforts. The penalty was converted by the same player. Video evidence on the group chat. 2-2. Unfortunately for Hibs, a third quickly followed with another goal from the debutant. Receiving the ball between full back and center back, a left footed strike found Bill’s bottom corner. 3-2 Nippon and hattrick hero. Not the result the Hibs fans wanted to see, especially after several beers down. The final quarter saw Hibs change formation and hit longer balls into the Nippon half. This resulted in half and full chances, with Julian whistling a bouncing ball wide of the post. One Nippon counter saw Bill make a fantastic one on one stop, but generally Hibs were on the push for an equaliser. In the last moments, a Nippon foul on the edge of the box meant Hibs had a freekick just wide of the post, and then one more foul meant a last crossing opportunity. A good delivery saw Bolts put his head where no one else would and received a punch in the eye from the keeper for his troubles. If you believe the rumours, this isn’t the first punch Bolts has been involved in recently. Cries for a penalty the ref was having none of it and then the full time whistle. 3-2 Nippon FT. A frustrating loss but of course, like always, we go again. In our heart of hearts, not sure truly whether we did enough on the night. Take the positives, learn from the negatives and get after 3 points on Friday night this coming week.