Hull City 0 Leicester City 1: Home loss proves so hard to stomach for Tigers

This has been a year of contrasting highs and lows for Hull City.

Hull City's Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez react after a missed chance during the Barclays Premier League match at the KC Stadium, Hull.

Two trips to Wembley, racing into a two-goal lead in the 
FA Cup final and European competition coming to the East Riding for the first time are golden moments which no Tigers fan will ever forget.

To counter those peaks there have been two lengthy winless runs in the Premier League, the Cup being wrestled from their grasp in heart-breaking fashion last May, and the club’s Europa League foray lasting just 12 days into the season.

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How fitting, therefore, that the Tigers should round off 2014 by taking their supporters on another rollercoaster ride as the elation of beating Sunderland on Boxing Day gave way to the despair and frustration of losing to the Premier League’s bottom club just two days later.

Riyad Mahrez’s first-half strike ultimately settled a contest in the favour of Leicester City.

But the Algerian’s clinical finish told only a fraction of the story of how Hull’s 37th and final league game of the year ended in defeat No 21 as a pulsating final half-hour saw both sides reduced to 10 men and the visitors’ goal put under such intense pressure that it seemed merely a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Nigel Pearson’s side would buckle.

However, despite twice hitting a post and having countless gilt-edged opportunities to cancel out Mahrez’s opener, Hull ended the afternoon with nothing to show for their efforts but a hard luck story.

Manager Steve Bruce said: “The players are deflated. If you get beat and deserve to get beat, fine. But when you don’t deserve it like this then of course it leaves a bad taste.

“I couldn’t fault the effort or endeavour. It was relentless in the second half, we had something like 20 attempts on goal.

“But, if we are being honest, one or two of them you expect to score. That is the frustrating thing.”

Considering how high the stakes had been for both teams going into the final game of the year, and the fact both sides had played just two days earlier, it should perhaps not have come as too much of a surprise that proceedings started in a sluggish fashion.

Curtis Davies and Alex Bruce pulled off a couple of early timely challenges, and at the other end Gaston Ramirez shot tamely into the mid-riff of Ben Hamer.

But, otherwise, not a lot happened to take the minds of the 23,809 crowd off the plunging temperatures in the East Riding during the opening half-hour.

Then what proved to be the killer blow arrived as a perfectly-executed tackle by Davies saw the Tigers’ captain unwittingly play the ball to Mahrez wide on the right. A couple of body-swerves later and the Algerian wideman had created sufficient space to curl a left-footed shot beyond 
Allan McGregor and into the net.

The goal briefly sparked Hull into life as Ramirez was played in only for a heavy touch by the Uruguayan as he tried to round Hamer seeing the ball run dead.

Then, right on half-time, Stephen Quinn whipped in a wonderful cross from the left flank and Ahmed Elmohamady made a hash of his attempted volley when it seemed easier to score.

Steve Bruce attempted to capitalise on this strong finish to the opening 45 minutes by sending on top scorer Nikica Jelavic from the bench during the interval.

It was, though, only after the introduction of Tom Ince and record signing Abel Hernandez just after the hour that the hosts truly got going again. After that it was a one-way procession 
towards the Leicester goal.

Quinn was the first to threaten with a snap-shot that was smothered before Wes Morgan was fortunate to see his attempted block of Elmohamady’s cross loop just wide of his own goal, with Hamer stranded, rather than in the back of the net.

It was a big let-off for the Foxes and another followed 12 minutes from time when Jake Livermore fired against a post from 10 yards.

The ball rebounded back to Livermore, who had another go only for the body of a Foxes defender to deny him. The feeling that this might not be Hull’s day grew even further three seconds later when Jelavic headed just wide at full-stretch after being picked out by Liam Rosenior.

As the onslaught continued, the same post that Livermore had struck was hit as Hernandez met a right-wing cross with a firm diving header.

The ball then broke to Davies, who turned it goalwards only for his effort to be blocked on the line by Marcin Wasilewski.

Hull refused to be downhearted and a tantalising cross from Brady created the next opening, but Jelavic was unable to add the finishing touch.

Hernandez then fired into Hamer’s body before Hull’s hopes were given a lift when Paul Konchesky, already on a booking, blatantly body-checked Elmohamady off the ball and was sent off.

With the home fans roaring their team on, the biggest chance of all arrived in stoppage time as Brady’s deep corner was knocked down by Alex Bruce towards Hernandez. A goal seemed certain with Hull’s record signing being just six yards out but, instead, he lent backwards at the vital moment and fired over the crossbar.

There was still time for Brady to fire a free-kick into the Foxes’ defensive wall before a rare Leicester break ended with Quinn, under pressure from David Nugent, controlling the ball with his hand as last man.

It left referee Phil Dowd with little option but to brandish a second red card and ensure 2014 ended on a low for Hull.