Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Arsenal 1 Hull City 2: Hull profit from Brown know-how

Manchester United got a big helping hand from the referee to see them on their way against Bolton and Chelsea did too against Stoke, with what looked like handball in the build-up to their first goal.

Liverpool were not harmed by an opponent being sent off. Arsenal, too, had a little assistance for their goal, but unlike their principal rivals for the Premier League title, that was the cue for things to get worse not better.





This was not the Gunners' first defeat of the season, as they lost last month at Fulham. Yet even that was not a complete shock, given the way they had played against West Bromwich on the opening day, eking out an unconvincing 1-0 win. As it is, Hull became only the second Premier League team to win at the Emirates since Arsenal moved there in August 2006, West Ham United winning in April last year.



Geovanni and Daniel Cousin, Brazilian and Gabonese respectively, took full advantage of what slight openings they were given and in the space of three second-half minutes had turned their deficit into a lead, which they held on to with the considerable help of the goalkeeper Boaz Myhill and his grimly determined back four.



Having won on the road at Bolton and Blackburn in the last fortnight, where they used to be found wanting for attitude and aggression, those factors instead applied at the Emirates against Phil Brown's well-organised side. Of course, Brown has previous against Arsène Wenger. As Sam Allardyce's assistant at Bolton, the pair used regularly to dream up ways of beating the Frenchman and his more technically gifted players. But even though he cited winning the Championship play-off final last season and victory this month at St James' Park – he is a North-easterner – as career highlights, this was surely Brown's crowning moment. So far.



He said: "I'm not saying I've been here, seen it and done it but, with Sam at Bolton, I've upset the odds on occasion at Highbury and got a result at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford. They [the players] listened to me at half-time. They probably thought it was a bit harsh, the criticism, but they carried out the instructions in the second half and that was pleasing."



It cannot be overstated what an achievement this was for Hull in their first ever campaign in the top flight. This time a year ago they were near the bottom of the Championship until Brown started to turn the situation around.



Ian Ashbee, the club captain and midfielder, put it this way: "I have played at some right dumps in my time and Boothferry Park [Hull's former ground] was one of them. I've done it the hard way and to finally get the chance to come here and play at such a massive stadium, even for the fans it's brilliant. You can't believe it when you're playing against the likes of [Cesc] Fabregas after playing in League Two not that long ago. It's a chance that a lot of players never get. We've got that opportunity and we've got to put two hands on it and try to stay in this league."



Coming so soon after Arsenal's reserves had thrashed Sheffield United 6-0 in the Carling Cup, the expectation was that the same sort of punishment would be handed out to Hull, but Brown has seen his side to an unbeaten start to the season away from home and it was clear why.



He retained an offensive threat with Geovanni – "people thought it was suicidal to play him," said Brown – behind a front two and his midfield three stuck to their task of suffocating the likes of Fabregas and Theo Walcott. Behind them, the defence blocked and tackled in packs.



It was not quite enough to stop Arsenal's opener, with Walcott's cross glancing off Fabregas and then Paul McShane's leg. Having already been told at half-time that goalless was not good enough, the visitors had extra reason to go on the attack.



Wenger lamented the failure to close down Geovanni when he picked up the ball 25 yards out and hammered it into the top corner. He also criticised his defenders for letting Cousin be first to the ball for the header that won the game. Arsenal's last chance of a point slipped away when Fabregas's shot was saved by Myhill in injury time.



Wenger noted some complacency, and Brown warned him many other teams this season would play like Hull, not something the Frenchman wanted spinning around his head on his 12th anniversary as Arsenal manager. Asked whether they can afford to lose again if they are to contend for the title, Wenger replied: "I do not know," but with Chelsea and Liverpool unbeaten, the feeling is he probably does know, but was just not in the mood for telling.



Goals: McShane og (50) 1-0; Geovanni (62) 1-1; Cousin (65) 1-2.



Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Sagna, Touré, Gallas, Clichy; Walcott (Vela, 77), Fabregas, Denilson, Eboué (Bendtner, 68); Adebayor, Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Ramsey, Song, Silvestre, Djourou.



Hull City (4-3-1-2): Myhill; McShane, Turner, Zayatte, Dawson; Marney, Ashbee, Boateng (Garcia, 77); Geovanni (Hughes, 72); Cousin (Mendy, 80), King. Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Halmosi, Folan, Ricketts.



Booked: Arsenal Sagna, Gallas; Hull Ashbee.



Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).



Man of the match: Ashbee.



Attendance: 60,037.



Tigers burning bright Hull's rise to the top flight



*Nov 1998 Bottom of the Football League and on course for relegation to Conference.



*Oct 2002 Hull fifth from bottom of League Two.



*Dec 2002 Move to KC Stadium.



*2004 League Two runners-up.



*2005 League One runners-up.



*Dec 2006 Phil Brown takes over as manager.



*2007-08 Finish third in Championship; win play-offs.



*Ascent from bottom to top flight in five seasons is third-fastest ever.



*Ian Ashbee: Sent off on debut in Aug 2002 in League Two; captains side to victory at Emirates in Sept 2008. Thought to be only man to captain one side in all four divisions.