Sunday, 14 August 2016

Hull City 2 Leicester City 1: Troubled Tigers trounce Champs

From the depths of adversity, Hull City produced a stunning performance to shock the Premier League Champions Leicester City (that still sounds weird) at the newly rebranded KCOM Stadium.

Credit: Craig Brough

I can’t honestly say I’ve ever looked forward to a new season less than this one and waking up on Saturday morning devoid of the usual excitement the first day always brings was heart breaking. I nearly didn’t go to the game. I appreciate there are many fans who feel the need to protest about the current state of the club but with prospective new owners on the horizon - I just didn’t want to. Walking into that negative atmosphere to watch our under-strength squad try to compete with the best the league had to offer last term was a horrific prospect that I wanted no part of if I’m completely open.

I forced myself to go though. My brother and I discussed the likelihood of a “Typical City” performance – a win against the odds. The thought of “What if we do win?” was enough to convince me to go and I’m overjoyed that I did because we were treated to a performance from eleven City players (no subs used) full of fight and pride that epitomised what we love about the game and our club – despite the Egyptian Elephants in the room (but not the stadium).  

City 4-5-1
Eldin Jakupovic
Ahmed Elmohamady – Jake Livermore – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Tom Huddlestone – Sam Clucas – David Meyler – Adama Diomande
Abel Hernandez

Sub goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak, Shaun Maloney and Greg Luer were the only other “senior” players fit for City. The bench was filled by U21s Jarrod Bowen, Josh Clackstone, Greg Olley and Josh Tymon. All are excellent prospects but they’re a long way from being Premier League-ready. I won’t go into how it came to this because I’m sure you already know but there’s a summary at the bottom that I made in a strop a few weeks ago.

I can’t tell you too much about the first half because I barely took it in. In fact – I f*****g hated it. The players came out to chants of “We want Allam Out” and there were several other verses, banners and the Hull City Supporter’s Trust’s “NO” cards being held up. This was the opening dat of the season and the football was secondary by some distance. I’m not going to pretend it affects the players or any of that but as someone who loves football, it affected by enjoyment considerably. I hate the state of our club. I hate that we’re a laughing stock. I hate that we’re “the worst prepared team in Premier League history”. I hate that we feel the need to protest en masse at our first game of the season. Most of all, I hate the Allams because it’s their fault. And if anyone trusted them remotely, then the protests may have been classed off due to the presence of a delegation of potential Chinese owners. Someone in the East Stand did bring a Chinese flag. Hopefully they saw that as a welcome!

There were few chances in the half but it was clear that City were playing very well and working ridiculously hard. Livermore, Clucas and Diomande were all playing out of position but were making a real fist of it and in the case of Jake and Sam – you’d swear they’d played there all their lives. Mike Phelan had the team very well organised and defending deep which nullified the threat the pace of Vardy, Musa and Mahrez brings.

We were a minute away from heading into half time with a credible goalless scoreline after Jakupovic saved brilliantly from Fuchs and then Livermore blocked heroically as Vardy met the rebound when we turned the game on its head. Snodgrass’s left wing corner was headed goalward by Davies. Schmeichel pawed it away but Hernandez and Diomande both overhead kicked the ball into the goal. It looked synchronised live and it really was. Hernandez was credited with the goal in the stadium and on my twitter feed but that was because he ran off celebrating. It was later corrected to a Diomande goal as he probably, just about got the final touch [1-0].

Half time: Hull City 2 Leicester City 1

The second half was much better. The acrimony had turned to celebration with the goal and the atmosphere was electric. Even with a highly embarrassing 5,000 empty seats at the KCOM. You know who to blame for that too. It was also despite Leicester winning a penalty 12 seconds into the half when Huddlestone tripped Gray after Meyler had given away possession in our half. The trip was outside the box but we’re back in “The Big League” now and so we get the best referees in the country – so naturally he got it wrong. Mahrez scored easily from the spot [1-1].

Everyone in the world, watching as this was the Premier League’s curtain raiser, said in unison “OK, Hull, you’ve put up a good fight but you’ve woken the beast now – you’re getting smashed”. Unfortunately for the visitors, Snodgrass didn’t hear them. Elmo latched onto a loose pass and played a 1-2 with Snod. His cross was cut out at the near post and fell to Snodgrass who lashed it into the bottom right-hand corner leaving Schmeichel stranded [2-1].

There was still a long way but despite the arrival of fresh legs from the Leicester bench, including the effervescent Okazaki and the sizable threat of Ulloa – City were relatively untroubled. Jakupovic made a couple of saves from long range efforts, making a bit of a meal of pushing Mahrez’s free kick around the post, but otherwise the well-organised defence, brilliantly marshalled by Davies and protected by Clucas, gave Leicester’s strikers little to get their hopes up.

City might even have wrapped things up but Schmeichel punched away Snodgrass’s whipped free-kick at his near post. City looked a little heavy legged at times but Phelan didn’t feel the need to make any substitutions and with Diomande proving a useful out-ball and Meyler’s energy coming into play late on, we escaped unscathed.

Full time: Hull City 2 Leicester City 1

So ended a tremendous game and the crowd – filled with anger and dread at half-past-noon – drifted away happy and bursting with pride in the performance.

That performance masks some of the problems at City but it doesn’t solve them. The squad is still woefully inadequate in numbers and in some positions – in real top flight quality. Mike Phelan, if he is to be the manager (and you have to be impressed with him thus far) needs five signings minimum. He needs money to work with and he needs someone with more interest in Hull City than playing Polo and winding up fans to go out and do the deals.

More than anything, the club needs a change in ownership. This afternoon showed that when you put all of the Allam-created garbage to one side, following City is still tremendous fun and our fanbase will get behind this group of players who are united in adversity. Singing the “great escape” theme on the opening day of the season is an example of the gallows humour you get from football fans and particularly ours.

We now need the “new broom” that Steve Bruce spoke about so often in the summer to sweep the Allams out of the club and give supporter’s hope that things will return to how they were before Assem Allam fell out with Hull City Council. To a time when worrying whether we’d get three points on a Saturday afternoon was about all most fans were concerned with.

The state of Hull City by @HullCityLive

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