Six things we learned from Millwall v Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton are on their way to Wembley after a thrilling win at Millwall in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup yesterday. Here's six things we learned from the game.
Character in abundance
One thing you cannot question about this Albion squad is their character.
There may be days where things don't go their way and they've had ups and downs so far this season but they always react and never give up.
At 2-0 down with just a couple of minutes to play it would have been easy for Albion to have a half-hearted effort to get back into the game. After all, how many teams score twice in a matter of seconds to get back into a game?
But Solly March showed intent down the right to get away from two Millwall players and after his cross was only half-cleared, Jurgen Locadia scored with a wonderful turn and shot which gets better and better the more you watch it.
Brighton then threw the kitchen sink at Millwall to get an equaliser. Jose Izquierdo should have done better with an opening, before Solly March's free kick slipped through Millwall keeper David Martin's hands to send the game into extra-time.
From the moment it became 2-2, you just had the feeling that it was going to be Albion going to Wembley and that was how things transpired.
Lack of VAR in the spotlight again
The use of VAR in just two of the FA Cup quarter-finals has provided much debate. Surely the rules have to be the same throughout the competition and it has in play for all four ties or none of them.
On Saturday, two decisions went against Swansea as they lost 3-2 to Manchester City. Had it been in play, the Swans may well have held on to beat City.
Yesterday, the game could have been completely different with VAR in use.
Shane Duffy looked to be dragged back by Jake Cooper from a corner but no penalty was awarded, Glenn Murray appeared to be fouled before Alex Pearce headed Millwall into the lead and Martin Montoya was onside when he crossed for Jurgen Locadia to put the ball in the back of the net. That would have made it 3-2 and prevented the game from going to penalties.
Things worked out fine for Albion in the end as they still progressed but there would have been a lot of 'what ifs' had the Seagulls exited the competition yesterday.
A costly red
With just seconds remaining of extra-time, Millwall's Shane Ferguson was sent off for a foul on Lewis Dunk.
It was a moment of madness from the Northern Irishman and had the Lions ended up progressing he would have missed out on a trip to Wembley.
However, before thinking of a trip to the home of football, Ferguson would have been one of the Lions' five penalty takers.
Millwall boss Neil Harris criticised his left-back for the red card, saying afterwards: "Shane Ferguson is our best penalty-taker and wasn’t on the pitch because of a moment of stupidity."
Defender Jake Cooper ended up taking the Lions' sixth and blazed horribly over. Would the Lions now be planning a trip to Wembley if Ferguson stayed on the pitch and taken one of their first five spot-kicks?
Cool from the spot
Albion had practiced penalties in the lead up to the game and it showed.
Regular penalty-taker Glenn Murray stepped up first and was unfortunate to see his spot-kick come back off the underside of the bar.
The other five penalties gave Millwall keeper David Martin no chance. Jurgen Locadia, Solly March, Davy Propper, Dale Stephens and Lewis Dunk all kept their cool to score from 12 yards.
If it was offered to them again now, there's no doubt Albion would relish the prospect of a penalty shoot-out against Manchester City to determine who goes through to the FA Cup final.
Ryan the hero again
Mathew Ryan has established himself as a firm fans' favourite in his time at Brighton and he only enhanced his standing yesterday.
It was his first FA Cup appearance for Albion as he was preferred in goal to usual 'cup keeper' David Button.
Australia's number one made a couple of key saves at 0-0 yesterday but could not do anything about either Millwall goal.
Heading into the penalty shoot-out, Albion fans would have been confident with Ryan between the sticks.
He saved two spot-kicks for Australia in their shoot-out victory against Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup in January and kept out penalties from Wayne Rooney and Charlie Adam last season.
He saved Mahlon Romeo's penalty yesterday and then stood tall as Jake Cooper blazed over as Albion progressed into the last four.
Wembley a day out to cherish
Whatever happens at Wembley next month, it will be a day for Albion fans to cherish and it will be talked about for years to come.
The play-off final defeat to Notts County at Wembley in 1991 was almost the start of Albion's darkest hour, which led to the club ending up homeless and almost going out of business in 1997.
You'd have been called crazy to even suggest Albion would be in the top-flight of English football and going to an FA Cup final 22 years later back then.
But it's a sign of the progress Brighton have made over recent years. Another couple of wins should seal their place in the Premier League for a third successive season and Albion will go into the FA Cup semi-final with no pressure on them.
Everyone will expect Manchester City to progress, so it's a free-hit for the Brighton players. It's not the draw Albion will have wanted, with Watford facing Wolves in the other semi-final, but as Lewis Dunk said after yesterday's win at Millwall 'it's 11 v 11 on the pitch and anything can happen'.
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