The Tigers produced a tremendous performance against league leaders Chelsea at the KC Stadium before eventually being beaten 3-2 at the KC Stadium on Sunday.
It had looked set to be a horrible afternoon for Steve Bruce’s men as Chelsea raced into a two-goal lead early on, but the Tigers roared back with two goals in as many minutes to go in level at the break.
In fact, Bruce’s men could have won it had it not been for a tremendous treble save from Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois midway through the second half, but it was substitute Loic Remy who scored the decisive goal 13 minutes from time to give the visitors all three points.
Bruce made two enforced changes to his starting line-up for this one, with David Meyler coming in for the suspended Tom Huddlestone and Abel Hernandez replacing the injured Nikica Jelavic up front.
Chelsea were on the front foot from the kick-off and it was more than a minute before any home player managed to get a touch of the ball, while goalkeeper Allan McGregor’s first touch of the afternoon came when picking the ball out of his net after only two minutes. Eden Hazard was given far too much time and space to assess his options before deciding to shoot from 20 yards and finding the corner of the net with relative ease.
The Tigers should have been level in the fifth minute when Hernandez wasted a one-on-one opportunity, shooting straight at Courtois after latching on to Dame N’Doye’s flick on and it looked like a costly miss as Chelsea doubled their lead with just nine minutes on the clock as Diego Costa cut in from the left before curling a magnificent shot beyond McGregor and in off the far post.
It was certainly a harsh reflection on the home side’s efforts and they were soon sniffing a way back into the game. Gary Cahill’s foul on N’Doye, for which the defender was booked by referee Michael Oliver, gave the Tigers a free kick on the edge of the Chelsea box on 13 minutes. N’Doye picked himself up to take the set-piece and forced Courtois to tip around his near post. From the resulting corner taken by Gaston Ramirez, N’Doye headed straight at Courtois.
Bruce’s men continued to press their opponents and got their reward when pulling a goal back on 26 minutes. A wonderful run and low cross from left wing-back Andrew Robertson was perfect for Ahmed Elmohamady who was arriving at the far post and he applied the finishing touch.
Two minutes later, the Tigers were level. A seemingly harmless back-pass was miss-controlled by Courtois and Hernandez was the quickest to react as he slid in to send the loose ball into the net.
Chelsea were rocking and the home side were sniffing blood but Ramirez and Meyler both sent shots wide from outside the box.
There was one more chance for the Tigers before the break when N’Doye was barged over 25 yards out. Ramirez saw his free kick deflected over the bar and although his resulting corner caused plenty of panic in the Chelsea defence, they eventually managed to see the ball to safety.
Chelsea stepped it up a gear at the start of the second half with Cesc Fabregas firing a Hazard cut-back wide from inside the box and Costa seeing a header deflect just over the bar.
However, it was the Tigers who almost hit the front on 64 minutes, only to be denied by a string of fine saves from Courtois. First Elmohamady was denied after breaking the offside trap as Courtois beat away his powerful shot before a more precise effort on the follow-up from Jake Livermore was also pushed away. Ramirez then volleyed the rebound at goal, only to see Courtois make a flying save to tip the ball over the bar.
Cahill then had to make a vital intervention to prevent Hernandez from getting his head onto Elmohamady’s teasing cross, and Chelsea made the most of their let-offs to retake the lead on 77 minutes. Willian squared from the right for Loic Remy 12 yards out and with just about his first touch after coming off the bench, his shot was too powerful for McGregor as the ball trickled over the line.
Despite throwing on Robbie Brady, Stephen Quinn and Sone Aluko, the Tigers simply didn’t have another fightback in them, N’Doye going the closest to a reply with a quick turn and shot from Brady’s corner in the final minute.
Bruce’s men will emerge with plenty of plaudits after this performance, but sadly they have no points to show for it.
Hull City: Allan McGregor, Alex Bruce, David Meyler (Stephen Quinn 80), Abel Hernandez, Jake Livermore, Paul McShane, Michael Dawson, Gaston Ramirez (Robbie Brady 80), Andrew Robertson (Sone Aluko 80), Ahmed Elmohamady, Dame N’Doye.
Subs Not Used: Steve Harper, Liam Rosenior, Curtis Davies, Yannick Sagbo.
Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Branislav Ivanovic, Filipe Luis, Cesc Fabregas, Ramires (Oscar 61), Eden Hazard, Diego Costa (Loic Remy 75), Nemanja Matic, Willian (Kurt Zouma 80), Gary Cahill, John Terry.
Subs Not Used: Petr Cech, Juan Cuadrado, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Referee: Mr M. Oliver.