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Williams reluctant to let go of Europe

Given that Ben Williams is employed to handle, block or punch away anything threatening which comes within reach, it was perhaps not all that surprising that the Hibernian goalkeeper should fend off the very suggestion that his side are out of the Europa League after just one game.

Hibs trail 2-0 from the first leg
Hibs trail 2-0 from the first leg

Defeat by Malmo on Thursday night brought a familiar sense of disappointment to the new challenge of the second round qualifiers, with the 2-0 first leg deficit assumed to have left Hibs so far out of Europe that they will need to apply for a visa simply to get back home.

Williams was reluctant to suspend the practice afterwards, too, and he refused to accept that the tie cannot still be rescued when Malmo pitch up at Easter Road next Thursday. "We were pressing in the last few minutes and there are a lot of positives we can take out of it," said Williams, whose side would face Swansea City in the next round should they turn things around next week.

"Malmo are patient and knock the ball about well, but the tie is far from over. I was happy with my performance and we managed to keep the score down. It means we can go into the second leg knowing it's far from over. It's still within our reach. If we get the first goal then it changes everything."

Such conviction was heartening but it seemed to mitigated by the sentiments of Rikard Norling, after the Malmo manager acknowledged that his side would be happy to face Hibs tomorrow. "I would prefer to play the return leg on Sunday. We have all the momentum," he said. "In the first 15 minutes of the second half we had some really good chances and should have scored again, be we just could not get the ball over the line. It is only 2-0 but it puts us in a good position for the second leg."

Michael Laudrup has not dismissed the prospect of that being cut away from underneath them, though. The Swansea manager and former Denmark internationalist was content to have drawn either of Hibs or Malmo in the third qualifying round and he will be an interested spectator when those two sides finish their tie in Edinburgh.

"I'm pleased with the draw," said the Swansea manager. "Malmo is a huge club in Sweden with a proven record and proud history. But I'm sure that Hibernian will be in there fighting until the end."

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