A Martin Boyle double helped Hibernian to a commanding 3-0 win over Santa Coloma in a tetchy Europa Conference League qualifier at Easter Road.
The wide-man gave Jack Ross’ side the lead from the spot in the 13th minute before midfielder Joe Newell was controversially shown a straight red card after 28 minutes by Icelandic referee Vilhjalmur Thorarinsson for a challenge on defender Robert Ramos.
Boyle’s second goal two minutes after the restart had 4,697 frustrated Hibs fans back in fine fettle, as did the red card handed to Hamza Ryahi Bouharma in the 67th minute for a ‘last man’ foul on the Australia international and to Ramos for a second yellow five minutes later to leave the visitors with nine men.
Kevin Nisbet added a third in the 79th minute to give extra leeway for next week’s second leg of the second qualifier in Andorra which should be a formality.
Hibs, who revealed earlier in the day that they had signed Orlando City’s Chris Mueller on a pre-contract to join in January, took an early lead.
Visiting keeper Ramos Prada helped their cause when he raced from his goal to follow his own clearance from a corner and clumsily brought down Hibs striker Nisbet.
Referee Thorarinsson pointed to the spot and Boyle slammed his penalty low into the corner.
Then Hibs cheers turned to jeers when Newell was sent packing for a sliding challenge inside the Santa Coloma box on Ramos, who had just been booked for a foul on Allan.
The decision seemed harsh but Ross had to reorganise and Scott Allan was replaced by Kyle Magennis.
The home fans booed the decision and Ramos but breathed sighs of relief when Juan Torres and then Virgili Fernandez missed the target with efforts as play evened up.
Drey Wright replaced debutant Daniel MacKay for the start of the second half, which began in positive fashion for the Edinburgh side when Boyle came in from the right and sent in a shot from 20 yards which took a deflection before ending up in the far corner of the net.
The goal eased any nerves but referee Thorarinsson continued to frustrate the home supporters with some of his decisions, although not the one where he sent off Bouharma for denying Boyle a clear goal scoring opportunity as he went past him just outside the box, and then Ramos when he had chopped down Nisbet.
Hibs took control again and defender Ryan Porteous and then Nisbet had the ball in the net only for infringements to rule out goals.
However, the Scotland striker did get his counter when he poked in from 14 yards and Hibs should finish the tie off next week.
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