Kris Jack at Easter Road
Estonian International Henri Anier scored a late winner for Motherwell, as the Steelmen grabbed an opening day victory against Hibernian at Easter Road.
The summer loan signing latched on to a Hutchinson headed clearance, raced clear of Michael Nelson and kept his composure to slide it past Ben Williams to give Stuart McCall’s side the ideal start to the Scottish Premiership season.
Anier’s first competitive strike for the club was the only real moment of quality in a game full of half chances for both sides.
However, as much as Hibs huffed and puffed, they were to be outdone with seven minutes left, as the loanee from Viking Stavanger stole the points
Stuart McCall made one change from the side that lost to FC Kuban Krasnodar in midweek, with Bob McHugh coming in for Zaine Francis Angol to give the side a 4-4-2 shape. Lawson, Vigurs, McFadden and Lasley made up the diamond shaped midfield, while the back line of Hollis, Hammell, McManus, Hutchinson and Ramsden remained.
Hibernian gave a debut to former Shrewsbury and Swindon striker James Collins and in the early going it should have paid off for Pat Fenlon’s side.
The hosts, who had paid tribute to former striker Lawrie Reilly before kick off, started the game on the front foot, with Alex Harris and Liam Craig at the heart of most of their forward movement.
As good as their build-up play was, their final ball and distribution often let them down, with Fraser Mullen’s wayward strike the only real effort on goal in the opening twenty minutes.
The first save of the game came at the other end, when Keith Lasley received a raking pass from Paul Lawson at the edge of the box, but his volleyed shot was acrobatically held by Williams in the Hibs goal.
Bob McHugh headed wide from a dinked McFadden ball a few moment later, as ‘Well looked to establish a foothold on the game.
Scott Roberston then dispossessed Iain Vigurs to set up Alex Harris for the hosts, but the young winger’s effort sailed well past Lee Hollis’ goal. Paul Lawson then got caught in two minds at the edge of the area after linking up with John Sutton, as his shot was on target, but too soft to trouble Williams.
A shot in to the side netting was as close as James Collins came to opening the scoring for Hibs, after getting in behind Simon Ramsden as the half wore on.
Ramsden then found himself in space 20 yards from the home goal, but his shot rose in to the crowd as he was caught off balance.
The second half began in the same vein as the first, with Hibs starting on the front foot. Harris fizzed a ball across the six-yard area that Liam Craig couldn’t connect with, while Fraser Mullen posed some danger from the right hand side, but could not carve out an opening.
Lawson and Hutchinson found themselves in the book for fouls on Craig and Harris, before McCall’s game changing substitution. Zaine Francis Angol and Henri Anier replaced McFadden and McHugh, with the young Antiguan immediately finding space on the left, winning a corner with his first touch.
John Sutton thought he had grabbed the opener with about fifteen minutes remaining when Vigurs’ ball over the top saw the returning striker outpace Michael Nelson, only to see his low drive palmed inches wide by Williams. From the resulting corner, Stephen McManus leapt highest to power a header goalwards that was spectacularly stopped by the in-form Hibs keeper.
It looked like that was to be as close as either side would get to a goal, before Anier made himself an instant hero with seven minutes remaining.
Hutchinson won a looping header at the half way line, which dropped over the heads of Nelson and Hanlon in the Hibs defence. With Anier on the shoulder of Nelson, the Estonian outpaced his man to bear down on Williams, prodding the ball past the onrushing goalie and in to the net.
As the clock ticked down, Hibs could not find a way back as ‘Well kept the ball in the far corner. Bobby Madden blew for full time, giving Motherwell their first three points of the Scottish Premiership season.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Easter Road
FT: Hibernian 0 – 1 Motherwell. Great result for the Steelmen. Three points to kick off the season at Easter Road.
90+1mins: Tell you what, wee Hibs penalty shot. Push in the area. Seen them given I have to say. Two minutes to go. Hibs on the attack.
90mins: Three minutes of time to be added…
86mins: Motherwell bois have once again been magnificent. Singing, chanting, noise and support. Best about… Well done lads!
84mins: Hibs sub – Danny Handling comes on for Thomson. Hibs will go for it now you would think.
82mins: The Estonian gets his first for the club. Latches on to a long ball. Keeps his composure to slot it past Williams. 1-0 ‘Well!
82mins: GOOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLL ANIER!!!!
81mins: Motherwell have the ball in the Hibs area. Zaine can’t get the shot away, neither can Las when the breaks to him!
79mins: Two excellent saves by the Hibs stopper to keep it at 0-0. Fair play to him; top goalkeeping.
79mins: Corner from Vigurs finds McManus but another brilliant block from Williams. Another corner for the Steelmen.
78mins: Ball over the top has Sutton in one on one with Williams. Shot is tipped agonisingly wide by the Hibs goalkeeper.
77mins: Hibs change. Tom Taiwo is on in place of Scott Robterson.
74mins: Carswell comes on in place of Paul Lawson. Sensible from McCall as the midfielder was treading a thin line after being booked.
71mins: Just under twenty minutes left. Hibs had the better chances in the second half but it’s still all square. Anyone’s game here.
69mins: The Estonian’s first touch is a difficult bouncing ball that squirms away from him on the half-way line. Still 0-0 here.
66mins: McFadden is coming off and is replaced by Zaine Francis-Angol. Anier is also coming on and replaces Bob McHugh.
66mins: It was actually Harris who got fouled. Similar boots. He is replaced by Sam Stanton. Looks like ‘Well will make a change to.
66mins: Hutchy is booked. Takes the ball to begin with but his follow through wipes out Thomson (I think). Free-kick Hibs on the left wing.
64mins: McFadden is screaming for a free-kick after getting blocked outside the box. Referee Bobby Madden having none of it.
62mins: Another Hibs chance. Strike from Robertson is brilliantly turned away by Lee Hollis. Hibs’ chances are coming from ‘Well slackness.
61mins: Faddy robbed and Hibs break quickly. Great cross but Stevie Hammell does incredibly well to get round and put the forward off…
58mins: Vigurs is robbed on the half-way line by Thomson. He drives forward and takes shot on but it’s comfortable for Hollis to hold.
56mins: Hibs’ best move of the half so far. Mullen collects on the flank – his drilled ball finds Collins but he flicks header just wide.
55mins: Decent ball into the box again from Lawson finds his former Ross County teammate but his header drops floats over the bar.
53mins: We almost get a lucky break there. Ball hits off Lasley and falls perfectly in space. Cross is overhit though and the chance gone.
51mins: Liam Craig takes the kick – goes low under the wall but it’s straight at Hollis who gathers without any trouble.
51mins: Hibs free-kick on the edge of the area. McManus not happy with the award. Again, hard to tell from way back in the stand. TV?
49mins: Pull back from McFadden for McHugh. He doesn’t get a good connection but even then, Sutton can’t help it on. Good chance gone.
47mins: It’s one booking each side as Paul Lawson is cautioned for a late challenge. Don’t think he can complain too much there.
45mins: Second half is back under way. Signal was a little late in joining us but back now…
HT: Hibernian 0 – 0 Motherwell. Not a classic by any means. ‘Well maybe just shaded it on chances, but if so, only just.
44mins: Nice ball into the box – Sutton cushions it down for Vigurs but his half volley flashed way wide of the post. Good move though.
42mins: Thomson is booked for a tackle on Lasley. Going for the ball but looked as if he caught the skipper. Home fans not happy.
40mins: Hibs immediately go on the counter but the attack fizzles out with the ball smashed into the side net.
40mins: Corner eventually lands at Lawson but his stinging drive is superbly blocked by the charging Hibs defence.
39mins: Nice little ball over to the left has Hammell in space. His cross is knocked out for a corner to the Steelmen.
34mins: It’s not great stuff so far in truth. Loads of effort from both sides but nothing too much to report thus far.
31mins: Another wee effort from ‘Well. Lawson tries to dink it over Williams from the edge of the box but no trouble for the Hibs number 1.
30mins: Hibs’ first venture near Motherwell’s box in the last five/ten minutes sees Harris blaze over from the edge of the area.
28mins: The ‘bois’ even have a song now for @StuCarswell18 – he’ll be delighted! 😀
27mins: Another wee half chance there. Ball from McFadden finds McHugh in the area but he loops header a few yards wide of the post.
25mins: Motherwell’s first proper shot on target of the match. Good combination between Las and Vigs. Skipper has a nice shot well saved.
24mins: Lovely little dinked ball into the area by McManus almost finds Sutton but it just gets away from the striker. Goal kick. Still 0-0.
23mins: Loving the taps aff chant from the ‘Well bois – throwing their shirts into the air! Entertaining stuff 🙂
21mins: It has been pretty slack stuff at the moment… Both teams really struggling to get a proper grip on things. Passes going astray.
16mins: Wee half chance on the edge of the box, neat play between Sutton and McFadden but the ball just wouldn’t sit down for the number 7.
14mins: ‘Well looked good on the attack there. Came to an end by the assistant’s flag. Hard to tell, but looked close??
12mins: We’re giving the ball away a little cheaply at the moment. Not quite as fluid as we’ve come to expect. Still 0-0 though.
10mins: Hibs applying a lot of pressure at the moment. Worked three or four corners in the last two minutes. ‘Well holding firm…
9mins: Corner causes problems inside the six yard box. ‘Well again forced to give away another kick from the quadrant.
9mins: Good Hibs move down the left, capitalising and a shot Hutchy clearance. Thankfully Lawson was well placed to knock it behind. Corner.
8mins: Brilliant ball from Lawson has Vigurs in down the left flank. His shot from just inside the area flashes wide of the post.
7mins: Down the other end, full-back Fraser Mullan strike a shot from 35-yards the zips high, wide and not so handsome.
6mins: McFadden has a wee half chance after a sliced Williams clearance. The forward takes an extra touch though and the chance is gone.
4mins: Hibs counter down the right flank. Hammell does well to get back and block the cross at the expense of a corner.
2mins: Motherwell bois making a ton of noise in the corner. Fantastic stuff as usual and much appreciated by the management and players!
1min: Match gets going… Hibs on the early attack and a dangerous ball into the box but ‘Well get it clear via McManus.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I’m delighted. I thought they started better but then I thought we controlled large parts without being dangerous.
“And I thought in the second half the game on Thursday caught up with some of the lads, I thought we looked leg weary at times and I think the three substitutes helped gives us a bit of freshness.
“When you make substitutions you want your substitutes to come on and have an impact, and obviously Henri did that.
“So I’m really pleased with the victory, naturally, and a good start for the campaign.”
Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon:
“It’s a sore one to take, I didn’t think we deserved to lose.
“There was some positive stuff but we lost the game to a poor goal and I’m disappointed that the good stuff will be forgotten.
“Defensively we were solid. I thought we had dealt with Motherwell’s shape and (James) McFadden coming into the hole to pick things up, and then we got done by a long ball over the top when we were attacking.
“They were the only two real chances they had, the first came from us losing the ball at our throw-in and then a punt over the top. We were ball-watching and Ben made a good save.”