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Laidlaw leads Hibernian U19s to UEFA Youth League victory over FC Nantes

Hibernian U19s defeated FC Nantes 1-0 in front of a healthy crowd at Easter Road to give themselves the aggregate advantage heading into next week’s UEFA Youth League return leg.

Ethan Laidlaw’s second-half penalty proved the difference between the sides in what had been a very even game up until that point, and it helped the young Hibees’ record yet another incredible European result.

Hibs will travel to France next week with the advantage as they seek to progress to the next round where they would face a ‘Champions League Path’ runner-up in a play-off for a spot in the last-16 of the competition.

Photo: Clydd Brodie

The game started in a frantic and fast-paced fashion with both teams making use of the wide Easter Road pitch and moving the ball well, but ultimately failing to carve out any clear-cut chances.

Laidlaw made a powerful, driving run into the box from the far side but just took one too many touches, allowing the Nantes backline to clear before Josh O’Connor saw his long-range effort deflected out for a corner a few minutes later.

Adel Mahamoud’s quick movement allowed him to find space between the Hibs centre halves on a few occasions but his shots were tame and failed to work Murray Johnson in the Hibs goal – a constant feature of both teams’ play in the opening half.

As the interval approached, Exaucee Badinga called last round’s hero Johnson into action for the first time as he was forced to hold onto the striker’s shot from outside the box moments before Robbie Hamilton’s deep corner for the hosts was punched clear by Lucas Bonelli in the opposition goal.

Photo: Clydd Brodie

Within 15 minutes of the restart, both teams had chances far greater than anything they conjured up in the first half. Hibs substitute Rudi Allan-Molotnikov received a pass inside the opposition box but just couldn’t quite get the ball out from under his feet, allowing the Nantes defence to recover and put it behind for Hibs’ fourth corner of the match.

Moments later Nantes went close when Mahamoud expertly controlled a long ball from the ‘keeper and found himself one-on-one with Johnson inside the box but he placed his low shot wide seconds before the linesman raised his flag for offside.

Just as the momentum of the game looked to be swinging in Nantes’ favour, Hibs were awarded a penalty in the 75th minute. Ethan Laidlaw, deployed in an unfamiliar position, picked up the ball on the left wing, broke into the box and was brought down by Kevin Fayasueka, allowing him to calmly send Bonelli the wrong way and slot home his spot kick to give Hibs the lead.

Photo: Clydd Brodie

It was both evident and understandable in the final few minutes that Hibs were happy to sit in and protect their 1-0 lead, safe in the knowledge that their backline had handled Nantes’ offensive threats effectively all evening.

As the full-time whistle loomed, Laidlaw was involved once again when his cutback found O’Connor who really should’ve doubled Hibs’ lead from 6 yards out but instead seen his effort saved by the feet of Bonelli.

However, the 2800-strong home crowd remained in fine voice and applauded the young Hibees off the park as they enjoyed another fine home European performance and take their advantage into the second leg next week.

Hibernian Player of the Match: Ethan Laidlaw – the 17-year-old was excellent throughout the match even though, by his own admission post-match, he wasn’t playing in his usual central forward role. His pace down Hibs’ left flank helped him beat numerous defenders and create opportunities for both his teammates and himself.

Hibernian Magic Moment: Ethan Laidlaw’s penalty – the star man was also involved in the best moment of the match as it was his speed which forced the foul from the Nantes defender and his calmness which ultimately gave Hibernian the 1-0 advantage heading into next week.

Hibernian U19s

1. Murray Johnson

2. Josh Mcculloch

3. Oscar Macintyre

4. Kanayochukwu Megwa

5. Jacob Blaney

6. Robbie Hamilton

7. Ethan Laidlaw

8. Murray Aiken ©

9. Josh O’Connor

10. Malik Zaid

11. Owen Hastie


13 Freddie Owens

12 Rudi Allan-Molotnikov

14 Jacob Macintyre

15 Adam Khan

16 Josh Landers

17 Reece Holden

18 Ricky Waugh

FC Nantes U19s

1 Lucas Bonelli

2. Mathieu Acapandie

3. Titouan Fortun

4. Karamoko Keita

5. Nathan Zeze

8. Timothé David

10. Warren Mountsangui

17. Kévin Lukoki Fayasueka

23. Exaucée Mafoumbi M Badinga

34. Adel Mahamoud

35. Sacha Ziani ©


16 Tom Mabon

7 Diockoumalang Gomes

9 Edoly Lukoki Mateso

11 Dehmaine Assoumani

15 Adama Dosso

18 Stredair Appuah

22 Sankoumba Toure

Referee: Jonas Jaanovits (EST)

Assistant Referees: Aron Härsing (EST), Neeme Neemlaid (EST)

Fourth Official: lain Snedden (SCO)



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