Sagbo rescues replay for Hull with late strike

Hull City's Yannick Sagbo
Hull City's Yannick Sagbo
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SUCCESSFULLY negotiating a trip to the Sussex coast is not an easy task right now.

Not just in a physical sense, with the fallout from last week’s storm meaning the main train line into Brighton is flooded and several local roads are passable only with care.

But also from a footballing perspective with Brighton & Hove Albion’s four home games in the Championship since the start of 2014 having all ended in 1-0 victories for Oscar Garcia’s promotion-chasing side.

Credit, therefore, is due to Hull City for emerging from last night’s trip to the south coast with their Wembley dreams very much still on track despite being way off their best.

Yannick Sagbo rescued a replay for the Tigers with just five minutes remaining, his tidy finish cancelling out Leonardo Ulloa’s first-half strike.

It meant the Tigers’ squad were able to fly home just before midnight safe in the knowledge that they are still in a competition that has hardly been a rich picking ground down the years.

Hull have just one semi-final appearance to their name and that came way back in 1930.

Now, though, a clear path to the last eight is surely opening up for the Tigers courtesy of a replay against Brighton – probably next Monday, although details will be confirmed later today – that could lead to a quarter-final against Sunderland.

Win those two games and the 
Tigers will be on their way to Wembley for a second appearance in the semi-finals.

Mind, if Steve Bruce’s side are to emulate the feat of their Thirties predecessors in amber and black then they will have to play much better than last night.

Hull may have twice hit the crossbar during the first half through Sagbo and Curtis Davies.

But apart from the final few minutes when the visitors’ passes started to stick, Bruce’s men were way below par.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in midfield where the much-vaunted axis of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore struggled, while neither Stephen Quinn nor Robert Koren advanced their claims to be involved more often in the Premier League.

Had Sagbo not equalised for the Tigers, an inquest would surely have been held as to how the Yorkshire club had let such a great opportunity to reach the latter stages of the Cup slip away.

As it was, the 695 Hull fans who made the long trip south were left relieved that their side’s hopes are still alive.

In the opening exchanges, those same supporters had very little to cheer. Neither, it should be pointed out, did the locals as the two sides cancelled each other out in the opening quarter.

Considering the prize at stake for the victors – an eminently winnable quarter-final tie against a team locked in a relegation fight at the foot of the Premier League – perhaps it was understandable.

Thankfully, the contest finally sprang to life on 27 minutes when Ahmed Elmohamady, the one Hull player to emerge from last night with credit, swung over an inviting cross that Sagbo helped onto the crossbar.

Five minutes later, the crossbar again saved Brighton after Curtis Davies had met Tom Huddlestone’s corner with such ferocity that Peter Brezovan would have stood no chance of keeping the header out had it been on target.

Brezovan then collected the ball after Matthew Upson had got in a vital block to the follow-up, which compounded Hull’s frustration as the hosts had gone ahead a little over a minute earlier.

The move was a thing of beauty, a delightful flick by Ulloa on halfway finding Will Buckley, who then played his team-mate through with a perfectly-weighted pass.

Ulloa raced forward before dinking a shot over goalkeeper Allan McGregor as the Scot raced towards the edge of the area.

The Argentinian should have then doubled Albion’s advantage in first-half stoppage time when picked out by Buckley again only to head inches wide of the target.

It would prove a pivotal moment of the night with Brighton rarely troubling McGregor after the restart.

For much of the second half, the same could be said about the visitors.

Matty Fryatt did have a snapshot blocked, while Huddlestone suffered a similar fate with his attempted pile-driver of a free-kick after Aluko had been hauled down with 13 minutes remaining.

But, in truth, Hull rarely looked like pegging the hosts back.

That was, though, until Aluko collected the ball on the right before curling over a cross that Sagbo controlled then smashed beyond Brezovan.

Suddenly, Hull were transformed as Koren had a shot blocked by Upson and then Meyler met Huddlestone’s corner with a firm header.

With Brezovan beaten, the small band of travelling Tigers rose to salute what looked to be a certain goal only for Jake Forster-Caskey to pop up on the line to deny Meyler and ensure the tie would go to a replay.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Brezovan; Calderon, Upson, Dunk, Chicksen; Buckley (March 46), Forster-Caskey, Andrews, Ince; Lua-Lua (Rodriquez 90), Ulloa (Obika 78). Unused substitutes: Ankergren, Bruno, Greer, David.

Hull City: McGregor; Elmohamady, Faye (Boyd 66), Davies, Figueroa; Koren, Livermore (Meyler 82), Huddlestone, Quinn (Fryatt 66); Sagbo, Aluko. Unused substitutes: Harper, Bruce, Chester, Henderson.

Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).