Hibernian U19s exited the UEFA Youth League at the hands of European giants Borussia Dortmund following an agonising 2-1 loss at Easter Road.
Jacob Blaney’s header in the 26th minute gave the hosts the lead in the single-leg play-off tie, but Dortmund fought back and converted a penalty kick with 20 minutes remaining to ensure a tense end to the game.
Substitute Hendry Blank then stepped up in the 90th minute to fire the German giants to a 2-1 win and confirm their progression to the round of 16.
Hibs came into the game full of confidence after seeing off Molde and FC Nantes in the previous rounds, but favourites Dortmund did likewise and had the better of the opening exchanges in terms of possession as they zipped passes around midfield.
Hibs settled into the game quickly, though, and created their first chance when Ethan Laidlaw found Josh O’Connor with a through ball. The striker’s effort was cleared by the visitors’ backline before the on-rushing Malik Zaid blasted the rebound over the bar.
Chances were few and far between for both sides, and it took until the 19th minute before the Germans had their first effort on goal, but Faroukou Cisse’s strike flew well wide of the target.
Hibs kept at it and took the lead in the 26th minute after Kanayo Megwa was fouled on the touchline. Robbie Hamilton whipped in the resulting free kick and Jacob Blaney rose highest on the edge of the six-yard box to direct a powerful header beyond Dortmund keeper Silas Ostrzinski to silence the boisterous travelling fans.
The hosts created two great chances shortly after the restart, with Laidlaw setting up Zaid whose curling effort went narrowly wide before Laidlaw himself headed clear a corner. He outpaced the defence to put himself through on goal but could only drag his strike wide of the far post.
Hibernian were made to pay for their missed chances in the 70th minute when Julian Rijkhoff sent Johnson the wrong way from the penalty spot after Owen Hastie was judged to have used his hand to block a shot from inside the box.
As Hibs tried to ramp up the pressure in search of a winner, Dortmund head coach and ex-Hearts player Mike Tullberg made a raft of changes – including the crucial introduction of Hendry Blank. In the 90th minute, the 18-year-old fired a low shot into the bottom right corner following a surging run and cutback from midfielder Paris Brunner to put his side in front.
The announcement of six minutes added time rallied the 7700-strong Easter Road crowd one last time and Hibs went agonisingly close to an equaliser when Blaney’s long-range free-kick was fumbled over the bar by Ostrzinski.
The resulting corner came in and there were claims by the Hibs players that the ball had crossed the line following a stramash inside the box but the Armenian referee was having none of it and blew for full time.
It was a heart-breaking end to Hibernian’s UEFA Youth League adventure and signalled the end of Scottish teams’ involvement in the competition this season. However, the thousands of fans who stayed until the end showed their appreciation for the Hibees’ efforts and can look forward to seeing a lot of these youngsters breaking into the first team over the coming seasons.
Hibernian Player of the Match: Jacob Blaney – the centre back scored an excellent header to give his side a dream lead against the German giants and then stood tall to help limit the visitors’ chances before going so close to equalising for Hibs right at the death.
Borussia Dortmund Player of the Match: Julian Rijkhoff – the Erling Haaland lookalike posed a threat for the Hibs backline all evening and did well to stay calm and slot home his penalty which ultimately kickstarted his side’s comeback.
Hibernian Magic Moment: Jacob Blaney’s 26th minute header sent the home crowd into raptures and was nothing more than they deserved at the time as the prospect of a giant killing became that little bit more achievable.
Borussia Dortmund Magic Moment: Hendry Blank’s last-minute winner topped off a fine comeback from the visitors who had initially seemed lethargic before kicking into gear and grinding out the result which puts them in the hat for the next round.
1. Murray Johnson
4. Ethan Laidlaw
5. Jacob Blaney
6. Jacob Macintyre
9. Josh O’Connor
10. Kanayochukwu Megwa
11. Malik Zaid
12. Murray Aiken (C)
14. Oscar Mcintyre
15. Owen Hastie
18. Robbie Hamiton
13. Freddie Owens
2. Adam Khan
3. Dean Clelland
7. Josh Landers
8. Josh McCulloch
16. Reuben McAllister
19. Rudi Allan-Molotnikov
Borussia Dortmund U19s
22. Silas Ostrzinski
4. Nnamdi Collins (C)
5. Prince Aning
6. Faroukou Cisse
8. Vasco Walz
9. Julian Rijkhoff
10. Samuel Bamba
17. Goktan Gurpuz
19. Paris Brunner
26. Filippo Mane
29. Abdoulaye Kamara
1. Marian Kirsch
11. Isaak Nwachukwu
13. William Cole Campell
14. Jaden Korzynietz
15. Rafael Lubach
18. Michel Ludwig
21. Hendry Blank
Referee: Henrik Nalbandyan (ARM)
Assistant referees: Mesrop Ghazaryan (ARM), Khachatur Hovhannisyan (ARM)
Fourth official: Daniel McFarlane (SCO)
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