When Hibernian lost 10-1 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, some people would have questioned the value of such a tie in the Round of 32. But, what the 2016 SSE Scottish Cup Final showed is that those experiences can teach valuable lessons that improve sides.
The tactics Hibs used in the second leg against the Bundesliga champions were the one’s used to secure the Scottish Cup Final.
Over the three SWPL games between the two sides, Glasgow City outplayed their domestic rivals, using their pace to terrorise the Hibs’ defence. Even in the SWPL Cup Final triumph, Hibs could hardly claim to have outplayed City.
In the Scottish Cup Final – Hibernian arguably outplayed Glasgow City.
Hibs tactics were to play a 4-1-4-1 formation, using Emma Brownlie as a holding midfielder to provide extra protection. It was because of her that allowed full-backs Clare Williamson and Kirsty Smith to swarm forward as their countered. Hibs’ wingers and full-backs seemed to operate as one, both providing defensive and offensive cooperation.
Hibs’ Head Coach Chris Roberts admitted that his side was happy to sit off City and felt that up to Hayley Lauder’s equaliser in the 68th minute, City had felt to threaten his side. Both managers were agreement that Hibs had the better of the first half.
Hibs’ front three of Rachel McLauchlan, Abi Harrison and Lizzie Arnot worked tirelessly and never seemed to give up – hiding the fact that they have all played the majority of a competitive season.
Glasgow City, for one reason or another, didn’t start the first half well. They were sluggish, without purpose as they seemed happy to keep the ball. Hibs were happy to allow this, pressurised the City attack, steal the ball and attack with purpose and speed.
Hibs’ Lisa Robertson, who played for Glasgow City in 2013, said when she headed Hibernian in front in the 23rd minute, that “it felt amazing.”
City came into the game when Sarah Crilly’s introduction at half-time allowed Hayley Lauder to play a more central position, something she has played for City in recent games, including in their 3-1 win in the league over Hibs to saw them secure Ten-In-A-Row. Head Coach Scott Booth admitted that this was a tactical change, one that he felt allowed them to control the game.
Both Roberts and Booth felt that when Lauder scored her stunning equaliser that it changed the momentum of the game. However, despite this, Roberts and his side never felt like they were going to lose.
“The whole time all I could think about was winning the game. The players were talking about it, it wasn’t the case of let’s hold on to it, we were gutted not to win it in 90, we were gutted not to win it in 120.”
When in came to the penalty shootout, with Roberts worrying about whether he had enough volunteers to fill the first five takers, he found all ten of his players wanted to take a penalty, giving him the exact type of headache he would have wanted at that point.
Of course, the shootout got off to the worse possible start for Hibs with Lisa Robertson missing the spot-kick. She said she, “thought I’ll step up first, try and ease the pressure on everyone else,” but admitted it added more pressure on her team-mates.
But Hibs’ keeper Jenna Fife made the crucial save, and Robertson said of Fife’s save that, ”I’ll be thanking her every time I see her!”
Roberts praised the courage of Glasgow City’s Sam Kerr who missed the crucial penalty, believing that it would make her a better player and talked about his admiration for anyone brave enough to step up in such a pressurised situation.
The result means that for the first time since 2010, Glasgow City has failed to win either of the domestic cups, having lost the SWPL Cup Final to Hibs back in June. Despite this, Scott Booth praised the effort his team put in, stating “It’s a really tough one for the girls because they’ve given so much today.” He talked about City not having enough ideas in the first half, and not playing at the same tempo as their opponents.
The challenge now for Hibernian is to compete for the league. Despite the cup final squad of Hibs being 20, the side has lots of experience now, and they need to win the league if they are to fulfil their potential. Yet, this season, Hibs never looked like they could beat Glasgow City in the league. It is possible that the difference between the sides was City’s desire to win Ten-In-A-Row, but that hunger to win another title will still be there for Glasgow City in 2017. Both Roberts and Robertson talked about their ambition to win the treble next season.
The final showed perhaps what is the difference between the sides at this point. In the first Scottish Cup Final to go to a penalty shootout since 2003, Hibernian could only score one goal. City forced the tie into a penalty shootout. In games where City outplayed Hibernian, they would score at least two or three. That is the difference between the sides at the moment and something that needs to develop over the next season if Hibs are to make the next step.
If Hibernian can beat Glasgow City in the league next season, it will be about 10 years since their last victory over their rivals in the league – back in November 2007, the first season of City’s historic title run. And that can only be a good thing. The more competitive the rivalry between the two sides can be, the better it is for Scottish Women’s Football.
Because the 2016 SSE Scottish Cup Final was a magnificent advert for the game.