THE size of crowds at the two events could not have been more contrasting. Nor could the atmosphere or the air of anticipation ahead of proceedings getting under way in Hull.
But what the Tigers’ safe passage to the FA Cup fourth round and the final night of the ‘Made in Hull’ lightshow that kicked off the port city’s year as ‘European Capital of Culture’ in fine style did have in common was an ability to engender a sense of pride in the locals.
Certainly, the beaming smiles on the faces of the 6,500 or so Hull fans leaving the KCOM Stadium shortly before 5pm on Saturday told their own story.
A battling, gutsy performance had been enough to see off Swansea City and, most heart-warming of all, a teenage lad very much ‘made in Hull’, Josh Tymon, had got his name on the scoresheet for the first time.
“He’s one of our own,” sang elated supporters, who had earlier hailed Abel Hernandez’s return to action with a goal after two months out following a hernia operation. The delight and satisfaction at a job well done was clear to see.
It maybe could not compare to the tremendous sense of well-being engendered later in the evening by the spectacular lightshow that saw landmark buildings used as the backdrop to tell Hull’s story to the tens of thousands who had packed into Queen Victoria Square.
But it was still a moment to treasure in what has been a hugely challenging season for everyone connected with the Tigers.
This includes the players, who, to a man, are giving everything in very difficult circumstances.
Last summer’s woefully inadequate recruitment left Hull with a squad horribly imbalanced and seriously lacking in numbers.
Barring major surgery this month in the transfer window, those struggles of July and August will see the Tigers dumped back in the Championship come May.
Despite that, this squad simply refuses to give up as a second Cup victory over Swansea in as many seasons proved. Not only did the Tigers end the tie with three of the four defensive positions filled by central midfielders, but a fans’ boycott had left the players starved of a noisy backing from the stands.
To prevail in such circumstances was a credit to those in amber and black, a point not lost on new head coach Marco Silva.
“It was important to get the victory,” said the 39-year-old Portuguese, drafted in last week following Mike Phelan’s dismissal. “We need good results to improve our confidence. We need more time to get our ideas into the team, but this is a start.”
For Silva, the flat atmosphere and huge banks of empty seats were not what he has become accustomed to as a coach.
When his Olympiacos side hosted the likes of Arsenal and Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League, for instance, the Karaiskakis Stadium was regularly filled to its 33,000 capacity.
A year earlier, he signed off as Sporting Lisbon head coach with a penalty shoot-out victory over Braga in the Portuguese Cup final that was watched by 35,895 spectators.
The sight that met Silva when he emerged from the tunnel shortly before kick-off against Swansea could not have been more different from those highly-charged occasions.
To his left, the North Stand was shut. Both the East and South Stands also had only a smattering of supporters, including 210 hardy souls who had made the long trip from south Wales.
For the opening 45 minutes, the fare on the pitch matched the low-key surroundings. It was turgid, the passing style that Silva clearly wants to implement being far too laborious to make inroads into a Swansea defence that has proved every bit as porous as that of the East Riding club this season.
A half-time talking-to from the new coach, however, brought a big improvement and Robert Snodgrass twice spurned good opportunities to put the hosts ahead after Sam Clucas had been similarly wasteful in front of goal.
At the other end, Eldin Jakupovic denied both Nathan Dyer and Sung-Yeung Ki with fine saves and the value of those became apparent 12 minutes from time.
Shaun Maloney, after wriggling clear down the right, picked out fellow substitute Hernandez and he fired in from close range to break the deadlock.
Hull’s one-time record signing then turned creator in stoppage-time, his clever back-heel finding Snodgrass, who played Tymon through with an exquisite pass.
The 17-year-old, making only his eighth senior appearance, did the rest with a low shot across Kristofer Nordfeldt to ensure fittingly that a local lad shone on what proved to be a weekend where the city basked in the spotlight.
Hull City: Jakupovic; Meyler, Livermore, Dawson (Maloney 69), Robertson; Henriksen (Hernandez 62), Huddlestone, Mason, Clucas; Snodgrass, Diomande (Tymon 88). Unused substitutes: Weir, Bowen, Clackstone, Marshall.
Swansea City: Nordfeldt; Naughton, Fernandez, Van Der Hoorn, Kingsley (Rangel 68); Cork, Ki; Feur, Sigurdsson; Dyer (Routledge 62); Borja (Llorente 62). Unused substitutes: Britton, Amat, Fulton, Fabianski.
Referee: A Taylor (Cheshire).