Hull City reached a historic first ever League Cup quarter final beating Leicester City 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the KC Stadium.
There have been plenty of great occasions and fine games at our “new” home in the last (almost) thirteen years but for its significance, the drama and sheer enjoyment – this victory was up there amongst the best.
If a couple of penalties in the shoot-out had gone the way of The Foxes instead of The Tigers then this would probably have been a very long rant about referee Stuart Attwell. But as they didn't then I won't mention the odious turd at all. I won't mention that he denied us two penalties in extra time. I won't mention the number of free kicks he gave for next to nothing or the number he waved away for blatant offences. Nor will I mention that the referee who once awarded a goal when a shot went WIDE denied us a goal when Schwarzer dragged the ball from behind the line. Not a word from me on the worst referee in the football league - no, sir.
Moses Odubajo – Michael Dawson – Harry Maguire – Andy Robertson
Mo Diame – Tom Huddlestone – Ryan Taylor – Shaun Maloney
City dominated the first half in terms of possession and the few real chances created. The many changes to The Tigers team over the past few weeks, forced and by choice, benefitted City because there was a familiarity about the team, in spite of eight changes from Saturday, while Leicester were very disjointed. And, in truth, they were very, very poor.
Kramaric whistled a shot past the post after just a few seconds. I’m not convinced he had another touch in the game. His strike-partner Okazaki was equally useless. They were starved of the ball by the excellent Harry Maguire who got tight quickly time and again. It’d be hard to pick out a City player who didn’t have a good game but Hayden and Taylor both had their finest outings for us, Hayden particularly proving a very useful attacking threat despite the defensive role he was given and timing his runs from deep perfectly to join attacks and get into crossing positions.
The best chance of the half came on three minutes when Diame and Maloney combined to slide in Odubajo on the right. His cut-back saw Luer beat Mark Schwarzer but not the covering defender. It was one of few sniffs at goal for Luer who otherwise did very well in the lone role and made himself a good target for balls up from midfield. The ball stuck to him and he gave nothing away. He had a tough task up against the physically imposing Benalouane and Wasilewski but he kept them more than occupied and showed real touches of class.
Leicester were at their best in defence with a solid back four and the experienced Inler and King sweeping in front. City dominated the first two thirds of the pitch but it wasn’t easy to break them down. Their young full back Chilwell grew into the game. Diame and Odubajo had the beating of him at will for the first fifteen or so but he matched Diame after that. That was probably their one positive. We did open them up once more before the break. Luer cleverly stepped over Robertson’s low cross and Mo Diame arrived to smash it high into the North Stand from sixteen yards. For a player of his ability it was a great chance.
Half time: Hull City 0 Leicester City 0
City continued to dictate the game following the restart. Whatever Ranieri said to his team at half time proved fruitless. Chances didn’t arrive for all the possession and the refereeing became increasingly erratic. Ryan Taylor headed wide from a Diame cross and then Ranieri decided he’d seen enough and introduced Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy from the bench. It would eventually pay-off as the finished the game strongest.
City started to tire. Diame, Taylor and Hayden all looked varying degrees of knackered. Luer, who’d done his job from the start, took a knock and was replaced by Akpom before Hernandez came on for Taylor. Diame showed his lack of fitness when conceding possession and was lucky that Jakupovic held Albrighton’s low centre.
The game was meandering a little when controversy suddenly reigned. Schwarzer fumbled a Maloney corner and Maguire headed goal wards. Schwarzer juggled it towards his line and then smothered the ball in the foetal position looking suspiciously over the line. The linesman was on the wrong side to have a view and this ref will never guess again so the lack of goal line technology cost us a decision. Within minutes still images and videos were flying around Twitter. The camera angle made it inconclusive but I’m fairly certain it was in.
As mentioned, Leicester finished the game strongly and Maguire and Dawson (twice) made crucial blocks in stoppage time while Jakupovic decisively claimed a late corner.
Full time: Hull City 0 Leicester City 0
The sense of injustice grew massively in the first period of extra time starting with Akpom being booked for diving when he looked to have been clearly fouled by De Laet in the box. I could see the contact from miles away but can only imagine the referee felt Akpom initiated the contact. Leicester then took the lead on the break after a City corner had seen Dawson head the ball back into the six yard box and Maguire head jump into the air before challenging for the second ball and being barged in the back. Penalty again I thought. From the clearance, they fed Vardy who looked miles offside and despite Jakupovic saving brilliantly, sub Mahrez followed up to slide it into the empty net [0-1]. I saw a still on Twitter that suggested Vardy was onside and Harry Maguire later said the same on the radio. Regardless, the crowd was furious given the other circumstances and it charged up the atmosphere.
Many other Hull City sides down the years would have just been victims but this one looks to have something about it and levelled before the break. Akpom’s low left-footed drive was saved by Schwarzer and Hernandez followed up to convert the attempted clearance from four or five yards [1-1]. A Hernandez special and a reward for an evening of graft and craft from The Tigers. All of them.
Half time in ET: Hull City 1 Leicester City 1
City made all the running in the second half of extra time but Hernandez’s deflected cross looking like it might spin inside the far post was as good as it got. Akpom, Hayden and Odubajo all forced saves but they were all comfortable for Schwarzer. David Meyler replaced Diame, who somehow lasted 105 minutes plus.
The Man of the match announced in the stadium was Tom Huddlestone. He had a fine night and showed touches of utter genius while moving the ball neatly and looking more mobile than usual. He was beaten by Albrighton on the edge of our box early on when he looked half asleep but otherwise, he really got stuck in and made his share of challenges. I’d have gone for Odubajo though. He was utterly tireless down the right hand side. The runs he was making late in extra time were barely believable. He defended superbly against Albrighton who looked their brightest attacking threat (and only one for most of the game) and supported constantly down that right hand side. He showed composure and quality in good areas too. Albrighton was recently timed producing the fatest sprint in a Premier League game this season. I’d love to see them timing him chasing Odubajo. It was Usain Bolt vs. drugged up Americans. No contest.
Full time AET: Hull City 1 Leicester City 1
For the second time this season, a City league cup tie went to penalties. It felt different than the Accrington game where a defeat on penalties would have been highly embarrassing but I probably wanted to win this one even more given the historic consequences and the still seething resentment at the hideous referee who I’m not going to mention.
Mahrez stepped up to take the first penalty for Leicester in front of the South Stand. Jakupovic went full length to his left and pushed it on to the post [0-0].
Hernandez, fresh from missing a pen at Forest, smashed his into the bottom right hand corner [1-0].
Drinkwater [1-1] and Maloney [2-1] scored comfortably before Inler smashed his penalty into the top corner [2-2]. Huddlestone stepped up and matched him with a beauty into the roof off the net [3-2].
Wasilewski then smashed his straight down the middle [3-3] and Akpom sent the keeper the wrong way [4-3]. Jamie Vardy was next and had to score. The Premier League’s top scorer with a crucial penalty. The story is written surely? Nope, he bangs it in the corner [4-4].
That put David Meyler on the spot to win it. I bloody love the lion of Cork but I was at Accrington and saw him blow a similar opportunity. Not this time though. He cracks it beyond Schwarzer’s despairing dive to his right and City are through [5-4].
It has been an incredible week for City with three home wins. The league and the season as a whole can wait for another day though. This was about The Tigers making our own history again. And Steve Bruce was again the man who oversaw that achievement. When you go through the firsts and the highs of City’s history – Steve Bruce’s name will feature time after time.
Bring on that first ever League Cup quarter final. Bring on Arsenal. Bring on Chelsea.