Hull City took a big step towards the 2015/16 Championship play-off final with a convincing 3-0 victory at Derby County in the first leg of their semi-final.
A raucous, noisy home crowd greeted the players at kick-off and, as expected, Derby looked to make a lively start without really creating any clear-cut opportunities and were unable to test Eldin Jakupović – and the Tigers’ goalkeeper went on to play a key role in the opening goal of the game on the half-hour mark.
Jakupović raced off his line to clear a long ball forward, which triggered a Tigers attack. Jake Livermore skilfully flicked the ball through midfield and into the path of Abel Hernández, who took the ball into his stride and fired a powerful effort into the bottom corner from 22 yards.
Mo Diamé had the opportunity to double the lead shortly after when he found himself at the end of a patient passing move, but he dragged a low shot across the face of goal. Five minutes before half time, it was 2-0. Again, some neat, patient passing eventually saw the ball fall for Odubajo 20 yards from goal and after assessing his options, he fired goalwards with his right foot, the ball taking two wicked deflections – the last of which was off Rams defender Jason Shackell – before finding the back of the net.
Michael Dawson and Livermore both picked up yellow cards before the break, but with the Tigers in a great position, another 45 minutes of hard graft was needed. They produced that, and then some. Opening the half with a Curtis Davies header from Robert Snodgrass’ corner that only just cleared the bar, the centre-back then reverted to his defensive duties to produce a well-timed block on Tom Ince after the former Tiger had turned neatly and fired goalwards.
Despite winning by an aggregate of 6-0 in the two league meetings in 2015/16, Derby were strangely subdued, only registering their first shot on target with 80 minutes on the clock when Jakupović saved comfortably from substitute Jacob Butterfield’s low 20-yarder.
A well-drilled defence was in evidence again soon after when Cyrus Christie danced his way into the box before being crowded out by a black and amber wall. Elmohamady almost added a third when rounding Carson inside the Derby box but, tight to the byeline, the angle proved too difficult with the Egyptian only able to find the side-netting.
A collision between, and ensuring treatment for, Jakupović and Odubajo led to a lengthy spell of stoppage time and in the eighth minute of that added period, the Tigers delivered a big blow as they found a third goal with what was virtually the last kick of the game. Breaking swiftly after an Ince corner was cleared, Steve Bruce’s side broke like lightning and worked the ball to Robertson, who advanced forward before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner from outside the box to send the 3,009 travelling Tigers fans wild with delight.
Team: Jakupović, Odubajo, Dawson, Davies, Robertson, Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Snodgrass (Clucas 87), Diamé (Bruce 90), Hernández (Akpom 83).
Subs Not Used: Kuciak, Maguire, Maloney, Aluko.