Hull City 3 Liverpool 1: Perhaps Hull City owner Assem Allam should tell the club’s fans they can die when they want more often.
An East Yorkshire crowd united as never before this season in their determination to support their side, while making it clear to Allam exactly what they thought both of his plan to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers and his apparent contempt for their opinion, roared their side to a famous victory against a Liverpool side that gave a performance as poor as any since Brendan Rodgers became manager.
Asked about Dr Allam’s astonishingly inflammatory interview in The Independent on Sunday, City manager Steve Bruce said he now intended to speak to his employer.
“Well, it created a fantastic atmosphere, which I was delighted about,” said Bruce, after the Tigers lifted themselves in to the top half of the Premier League.
“Look, the chairman has put £70m in to this club and without him there wouldn’t be a Hull City, in my opinion. However I’ve got to have a conversation with him because I don’t think he quite understands what it means to the supporters in the history and tradition.
“All he thinks about is going forward and that the brand would be better. That’s his opinion, but obviously there’s thousands who don’t share it, and I understand them because there’s no one more of a traditionalist than me. But we can’t let it fester because when things aren’t going so well it creates an atmosphere, which none of us want.”
Allam, as he made clear in the interview which caused such a reaction, is not a man for turning, and the thousands of objectors can only hope Bruce’s advice carries more weight than theirs. It might, because this was a result which suggested he can keep the Tigers up this season.
Deprived of Daniel Sturridge after the England forward suffered a serious ankle strain in training on Friday, Liverpool stuttered from the start. Sensing their opponents’ discomfort, Hull, initially set up in a solid 3-5-2 formation, gradually became more adventurous, and Curtis Davies had already glanced a header wide from an Alex Bruce cross when the home team took the lead.
There was a huge slice of luck involved when Jake Livermore’s speculative drive clipped Martin Skrtel’s out-stretched foot and looped over the stranded Simon Mignolet, but Victor Moses had lost the ball to hand Hull possession well inside his own half.
Liverpool had not really threatened the Hull goal before they equalised, shortly before the half hour. Steven Gerrard’s 22-yard free-kick was wonderfully accurate, but City goalkeeper Allan McGregor was unimpressed by the manner in which Robbie Brady moved off the end of the defensive wall.
Rodgers must have hoped the goal would settle his players, but the lack of fluency and understanding up front began to pervade his entire team, including the back four, where the surprising decision to recall Kolo Touré at the expense of Daniel Agger looked increasingly hard to understand.
Tom Huddlestone, a class act in the Hull midfield, twice went close from distance, while the visitors’ only serious attempt in the first half was Luis Suarez’s side-foot straight at McGregor, after being set up by Raheem Sterling.
Nor did Liverpool improve in the second half, though Moses did force McGregor to make one brave point-blank save. Huddlestone, increasingly imperious in midfield, curled a left-foot shot just wide, and with 18 minutes took a deserved lead. Curtis Davies won a header in the Liverpool penalty area, Touré and Skrtel got in each other’s way attempting to clear, and having seen his first shot come back off a defender, City midfielder David Meyler collected the rebound and drove an angled shot beyond Mignolet.
The celebrations in the stands, which included the pointed parading of a banner reading “The history is in the name”, redoubled when, shortly after Yannick Sagbo had wasted one marvellous opportunity, the City striker collected a hopeful clearance and laid the ball off to Huddlestone. A tame attempt to flick the ball beyond Mignolet was going well wide until Skrtel threw himself at the ball and succeeded only in diverting it past his hopelessly wrong-footed goalkeeper.
Having seen his side concede three goals in two consecutive games, Rodgers acknowledged the poverty of his team’s efforts.
“It was very disappointing, we made too many mistakes and I thought we lacked quality with the ball. We never created enough or even kept it long enough in order to move them about,” he said.
Being without Sturridge, and with Philippe Coutinho only fit enough to take a place on the bench, had left his side lacking options, he said.
“There’s no doubt the quality in our squad isn’t big enough to cope with losing two players like that. Daniel is out for up to eight weeks, and Philippe never trained all week, he had some injections to even get on the bench.
“Hull didn’t surprise me, of the promoted teams they’ve done the best. We need to reflect, because we’ve now got a massive game [against Norwich at Anfield] on Wednesday. Today hurts us all.”
Having beaten Liverpool for the first time in their history, Hull travel to Arsenal with their confidence rather higher than it was after being beaten by 10-man Crystal Palace in their previous game.
“It was important to get a response, but with this group I knew that there would be,” said Bruce.
Hull: McGregor 8, Elmohamady 8, Bruce 8, Davies 8, Figueroa 8, Koren 6, Meyler 7, Huddlestone 9, Livermore 8, Brady 6, Sagbo 7
Liverpool: Mignolet 6, Johnson 6, Toure 5, Skrtel 5, Flanagan 5, Gerrard 6, Lucas 6, Henderson 5, Sterling 5, Suarez 6, Moses 4.
Subs: Coutinho 5 for Sterling (66), Rosenior 6 for Koren (66), Alberto 5 for Moses (73), Graham for Sagbo (89), Boyd for Brady (90).
Man of the match: Huddlestone