Hibernian withstood a counterattack at Kilmarnock as Martin Boyle’s brace ensured their Scottish Premiership campaign started with victory.
Boyle’s predatory strikes gave Hibs a massive lead, as he rounded goaltender Jake Eastwood to score before knocking home from a right angle in the box.
Chris Burke delivered a glorious free kick at the stroke of half-time.
It kicked off a solid second half for Kilmarnock, but they couldn’t find an equalizer.
Ofir Marciano leaped to his left to stop Paul Hanlon from throwing himself into his own net, while Danny Whitehall headed over the bar in the dying minutes.
It was an entertaining opening game, Kilmarnock enjoying long spells in possession and proving particularly dangerous on the flanks, as Hibs’ technicians slashed them on the counterattack.
Nisbet sent Boyle off to a gallop in the fourth minute, the forward taking advantage of Eastwood’s ill-advised 20-yard dash to get past the goalie and finish calm.
The Australia international jumped again half an hour later after being ravaged by a frantic race and dismissed by Scott Allan.
Burke’s thunderous and laced training brought back roaring Kilmarnock, but while their crosses in the Hibs box often gave the hosts palpitations, they were unable to apply a killer touch.
Man of the Match – Martin Boyle
What have we learned?
Jack Ross’ men had no problem finding the net last season, but were terribly soft at the back, scoring just two fewer goals than Hearts. Alex Gogic added steel in midfield and 18-year-old Josh Doig was a composed presence on his debut on the left. With virtually the same staff on defense, however, Hibs still looked vulnerable to crosses.
But they put their bodies on the line when it counts. After wasting nine leads last season, they will take all three points and run. But based on this evidence, there are still defensive weaknesses to be addressed.
For much of the game, Kilmarnock led possession, blasting the ball cleanly in midfield. They were disciplined and courageous in those times, but worry for Alex Dyer will add cruelty to the promising build-up.
Too often, visitors lacked a defensive pass, eye-opening change of pace or clinical finish. That was the difference.
What did they say?
Jack Ross, Coach of Hibernian: “We had to show different qualities in different parts of our game. We had to defend resolutely and I was happy to have done that today, it is something that we have worked hard and rectified compared to last season. .
“Ryan Porteous rolled his ankle in the first half, but testifying to his character, he wanted to survive the whole game. He was a huge plus for me, and he looked good during the preseason. ”
Alex Dyer, Director of Kilmarnock: “I’m disappointed. I thought we could have gotten something out of the game. But I’m proud of the boys, they worked hard and created a lot of chances.
« Jake Eastwood [who came off at half-time] was injured. He pulled his quad and I had to change it. If he wasn’t injured, he would have stayed on the pitch. I have no problem with him. ”
Hibernian travels to Livingston, unbeaten in their last six home league games last season, next Saturday. Kilmarnock will host the Celtic champions a day later.