Football can be a strange sport sometimes. As I write this, it is weird to be feeling more positive than negative about a Hibernian side, just beaten 6-0 by Bayern München. There is no way of saying that losing 6-0 is good, but you have to look at where Hibernian are at this stage compared to their opponents.
Firstly, you have to praise Hibernian for getting 2,551 people to Easter Road, a national record in the UWCL. After the game, Head Coach Chris Robert said “What a feeling to have that many people come and support the team…To come out to get that support from the football club, from all the supporters in the city was brilliant. I was really pleased to see that they stayed behind at the end to give them a warm applause as they came off the park because they deserved that.”
— UEFA Women’s CL (@UWCL) October 5, 2016
It was a wonderful atmosphere and the crowd was behind the Edinburgh side from the first minute. To hear the roar of the crowd when Rachel McLauchlan broke down the right wing in the 15th minute was a spine-tingling moment.
And whilst there is disappointment from the Hibs side, their Head Coach Chris Roberts said that he was “immensely proud of the players because they’re up against World Cup winners, European Cup winners, two-time Olympians, German internationals with over 100 caps.” Roberts also said he believed Bayern were one of the best teams in the world – and reaffirmed that he feels the Frauen-Bundesliga is the strongest league in the world.
As he alluded to, the gulf in the squads is remarkable. In Hibernian’s entire squad, it was only Lisa Robertson with Champions League experience. In fact, Easter Road had never hosted a Champions League game before. In Bayern’s matchday squad, their players had 163 appearances in the Champions League. In fact, Verena Faisst had won the tournament twice, and defender Gina Lewandowski has also won the Champions League once before. German clubs have dominated the competition over numerous seasons, and then you look at the international experience.
Not one single Hibs player has played in a major international tournament, whereas Bayern had players like Melanie Behringer who, including winning over 100 caps for Germany, has won the World Cup, the European Championship twice and the Olympics.
As Roberts pointed out, both before and after the game, with a tie against a team like Bayern – you have to learn from the experience.
Where Hibs have to improve is obvious from the stats. During the match, Bayern broke through the middle seven times. However, compare that with crosses from the wing where the German champions had 20 overall – and that didn’t include the 14 corners. Roberts noted the physical difference between the sides, saying “the thing we found most difficult was dealing with them in the air. They were very strong and a lot taller and it was a battle all night.”
This, however, is where the pride comes in. If I showed you highlights from different stages of the game, it would be hard for you to guess the score. Right from the whistle to start the match to the one that ended the game, Hibs never gave up.
Roberts stated, “it would be easy to roll over against that opposition, but we were realistic from the start of the game. We knew how tough the game was going to be, and we made sure we played every minute of the game, not necessarily the scoreline, that’s not to be negative, that’s to be realistic.”
The aspect that symbolised this was Siobhan Hunter making a crucial tackle in the 92nd minute.
And this desire to learn went into the dressing room where Roberts said of his players, “They’re in there, talking, learning straight away. Talking about situations in the park, how they could do better with this.” That is the attitude that the Hibernian players must take if this result will be beneficial.
When asked about any changes to the team he may make ahead of the second leg, Roberts replied that he would have to wait and see after their big game against Celtic in the SWPL 1 on Sunday. As he said, to get through this run of fixtures that see Hibernian fly out to Munich on Monday, play the second leg on Wednesday and then face a Scottish Cup Semi-Final against Hearts – they will need to use all their squad.
With Champions League football secured for the 2017-18 season, by which point some of the Hibs squad will also have played at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017, Hibs will want to take the lessons learnt in tonight’s game to next season.
But, right now, every single player in that Hibs’ dressing room should be proud of the effort they put in at Easter Road.