O’Higgins from Chile took on Scottish side Hibernian in the Supercup NI final of the Premier section at a sunny Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday evening. O’Higgins went into the match as favourites and they came close to opening the scoring inside three minutes when Matias Meneses controlled a lovely pass from Lucas Espinoza but he fired his powerful shot into the side netting .
It was the Chilean side who came closest to scoring on fifteen minutes as Meneses hit the post from close range as he took a sublime touch from a cross he turned quickly before his strike hit the woodwork. They then carved out another opening as Fernando Gonzalez played in a wicked cross for David Castro but he only managed to head wide of the target . Hibernian however were defending solidly, not allowing the South American side to get into their usual groove and forcing them to have shots from range but this nearly paid off for the side from Chile when Matias Sepulveda hit a screamer from range only for it to be deflected behind by Kane O’Connor at the last minute.
On the stroke of Half-time O’Higgins came so close to breaking the deadlock as Sepulveda had a shot that crashed off the crossbar beating Hibs keeper Patrick Martin all ends up. It was the side from Edinburgh who had the first chance of the second period as Fraser Murray was played in by Jamie Gullan but he was thwarted well by O’Higgins goalkeeper Luis Ureta.
O’Higgins had a superb chance to take the lead inside three minutes of the second half as Roberto Marambio rounded Martin but his weak shot was cleared of the line by covering Hibs defender Callum Yeats. Martin then made a fine save on fifty two minutes to stop the silky skilled South Americans from taking the lead as David Salazar’s strike from point blank range was well saved .
Salazar however wasn’t to be denied – on fifty six minutes he was played through and he thumped his strike into the top corner of the net from the angle, the sheer power of the ball leaving Martin with no chance of saving . The game was nearly wrapped up on sixty minutes for the side in blue as Sepulveda hit a sweet volley from outside the box the ball swerving just over the top.
With two minutes remaining O’Higgins had another great chance as Lucas Espinozas cross was hooked by the impressive O’Connor, but the Hibbies could have had an equaliser one minute from time. Dean Cornelious whipped in a cross for Callum Donaldson but he couldn’t get a clean connection on his header, allowing the Chilean side to clear . Hibernian were putting pressure on and thought they had levelled proceedings at the death when Jamie Gullans strike whistled just wide of the upright .
As Hibs were pushing for the crucial equaliser O’Higgins nearly had their second as they caught Chris Smiths side on the break. Salazar was played through by David Castro but he fired his strike over the bar when he really should have won the game. However the second goal did come when Salazar scored his second of the game as he scored a beautiful goal at the back post, firing in Lucas Espinoza’s fine delivery.
This was how it was to finish as O’Higgins were crowned Supercup NI Premier section champions.
Match Report by Josh Bunting