BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hibs boss Alan Stubbs believes League Cup hero Dominique Malonga is subjected to flak from the fans because he does not fit the bill of a “typical” Scottish centre-forward.
Malonga’s languid style has split opinion among Hibees, despite the Congo internationalist bagging 16 goals last season in a campaign interrupted by a sojourn to the African Cup of Nations.
However, he was no slouch on Wednesday night when he surged from the half-way line to give Hibs a 2-0 lead over Aberdeen, powering past Niall McGinn and turning Shay Logan inside-out along the way.
The sensational strike added to Jason Cummings’ fine opener to secure a memorable League Cup triumph over the Dons, who saw their 100 per cent record go up in smoke in Auld Reekie.
Stubbs knows Malonga will never fit the bill as a blood-and-thunder forward, but he reckons the former Cesena and Granada man has underlined his value.
He said “Dom probably gets comments because he is different. He is not what you would call a typical Scottish centre-forward, he has got his own style. Some people might like it, some people might get a little frustrated by it sometimes, but that’s the way he is.
“You have to remember he scored 16 goals last season and he was away for the best part of six weeks at the African Cup of Nations – so he didn’t do too badly in the end!
“With the goal against Aberdeen, you were thinking: ‘surely not, surely not.’ He kept going and kept going, and he showed a bit of everything.
“He showed strength to hold off Niall McGinn, then he showed great balance to check inside Shay Logan and he showed great composure to finish. There were a lot of elements, it wasn’t just a run from his own half.”
Malonga’s performance was all the more notable, given he looked to have been on his way out of Easter Road on deadline day. However, Stubbs insists he was delighted to see the transfer window slam shut – with Malonga still a Hibs player.
He continued: “There was a little bit of interest but that is all it turned out to be. Nothing happened, the window closed – and we were happy with that.
“Dom is here and he is part of the squad. His attitude has been great since then, as have other players since then who have not necessarily been starting games.”
Perhaps the only negative in a magnificent evening for the Hibees was the response of on-loan Celtic kid Liam Henderson to his substitution.
The midfield schemer reacted angrily after he was replaced by Danny Carmichael after just 62 minutes. However, Stubbs is ready to chalk the incident down to inexperience and revealed that Henderson has apologised for his actions.
The Hibs boss continued: “Liam is still young, he is learning. He understands what I expect. My decisions are always for the team, no matter what, and that will always be the case.
“We had a chat on Thursday morning, he has apologised for it and he will learn and we’ll move on. We do things when we are young sometimes because we don’t necessarily see the bigger picture.
“He is a very level-headed lad, with his feet firmly on the floor, and it was unlike him. I’m sure it won’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, Stubbs has warned his players their League Cup heroics will count for nothing if they slip up in the Championship against St Mirren tomorrow afternoon.
Stubbs added: “The cups are a great bonus for us, they are a different element, but we are under no illusions that the league is the most important thing for us.“