Brighton 5-0 Grimsby: Seagulls cruise to FA Cup semi-finals with a comfortable win
Brighton is now back in the hands of the locals but for a few hours on Sunday, something fishy happened as the city fell to an invasion of Harry Haddocks.
Grimsby supporters went everywhere with their inflatable friends, the League Two club’s shop having sold 3,000 for this trip. They descended on the lanes with them, they took over the pubs, they commandeered Brighton Pier, which was awash with black and white striped shirts.
Grimsby’s fans were determined to enjoy their day, well aware that this was likely to be the end of their FA Cup journey. It was, with Brighton mercilessly sticking a pin in their Harry Haddocks, but the visitors can look back on their longest run in this competition since 1939 with pride.
Two goals from Evan Ferguson and the others from Deniz Undav, Solly March and Kaoru Mitoma secured Brighton this win, which went exactly to plan for the side sitting 76 places higher in the leagues’ ladder.
They will now move on to the semi finals at Wembley, Roberto De Zerbi having shown his intent with a no-nonsense starting line-up at the Amex Stadium.
Brighton booked their place in the FA Cup semi-final with a comfortable win over Grimsby
Deniz Undav opened the scoring in the sixth minute after reacting fast to a save
Brighton’s 18-year-old striker Evan Ferguson (right) scored a brace in the second-half
Grimsby manager Paul Hirst joked half an hour before kick-off that upon looking at the team sheet, he feared Brighton had forgotten they were facing a side sitting 15th in League Two.
De Zerbi, serving a touchline suspension for this tie, selected a side of Premier League regulars. That included a chap who helped Lionel Messi win the 2022 World Cup, and a bloke who was subject to a £70million bid from Arsenal in the winter window.
MATCH FACTS & PLAYER RATINGS
Brighton (4-2-3-1): Sanchez 6.5; Gross 7, Webster 7.5, Dunk 7 (Ayari 78), Estupinan 6.5 (Colwill 45, 6.5); Caicedo 7, Mac Allister 7 (Van Hecke 78); March 7.5, Undav 7.5 (Sarmiento 71, 6), Mitoma 7.5; Ferguson 8 (Welbeck 72)
Subs (not used): Enciso, Steele, Veltman, Buonanotte
Scorers: Undav (6’) Ferguson (51’, 70′), March (82′) Mitoma (90′)
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 7
Grimsby (5-4-1): Crocombe 4; Efete 5, Smith 5, Waterfall 5, Maher 5, Driscoll-Glennon 5; Clifton 5 (Taylor 71, 6), Green 4.5 (McAtee 45, 5), Holohan 5 (Khouri 84), Khan 5 (Morris 71, 6); Orsi 5 (Hunt 45, 5)
Subs (not used): Pearson, Emmanuel, Battersby, Amos
Manager: Paul Hirst 5
Referee: Jarred Gillett 6
But in a way, that summed up the beauty of the FA Cup. Alexis Mac Allister may be a world champion, but if he wanted to win here, he had to overcome Gavan Holohan in midfield. Moises Caicedo may be a wanted man, but to reach Wembley, he had to beat Kieran Green.
Caicedo was involved in Brighton taking a sixth-minute lead. His attempt from 20 yards was spilled by Grimsby goalkeeper Maxime Crocombe and Undav raced in to tap home the rebound for 1-0.
‘Que sara sara, whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Wembley,’ sang Brighton’s supporters. To which the Grimsby contingent replied: ‘We only sing when we’re fishing.’
After half an hour, Brighton had seen 75 per cent of the ball. Grimsby very much looked like a League Two team trying to keep up with a Premier League side, yet they hoped for some help in the 32nd minute.
A long ball needed collecting by Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez before Danilo Orsi got to it. Sanchez took it in his arms, yet Orsi claimed he was outside of his box. Referee Jarred Gillett waited for word from VAR Michael Salisbury, who decided Sanchez was inside.
Brighton should have scored a second goal when Pascal Gross’s cross found Mitoma sliding in at the back post, only for the supremely talented Japan international to miss. Mitoma returned the favour when he squared a pass to Gross but with the goal at his mercy, he likewise missed the target.
Brighton should have been out of reach at half time, but their lead remained slender. The closest Grimsby had come to threatening Sanchez’s goal was when Lewis Dunk overhit a back pass which needed stopping before it crept over the line.
Otherwise, Grimsby had not attempted a shot, on or off target. You expected Brighton would eventually break down their defence and they did just that in the 51st minute.
Seagulls boss Roberto De Zerbi watched from stands again as he completed a touchline ban
Solly March continued his recent bright form for the Premier League side with a diving header
Mac Allister’s ball into the box was plucked from the air by Ferguson. It was a beautiful takedown, and the teenager then slotted his shot beyond Crocombe for 2-0.
Brighton thought they had a third when March unselfishly squared the ball to Ferguson but VAR disallowed it for offside, which prompted someone in the away end to let off a party popper.
Then, a rare chance for Grimsby. It was route one as substitute John McAtee broke behind Adam Webster before trying to dink the ball over Sanchez, who palmed it clear.
Brighton made it 3-0 in the 70th minute after some fast passes and fortunate deflections left Ferguson through on goal. Without hesitation, he found the bottom corner.
In the 82nd minute, it was 4-0. Brighton’s supporters were chanting ‘ole’ every time they passed the ball and at the end of an exquisite move, a cross by Webster found the head of March.
In the 90th minute, the 5-0 scoreline was completed. It wasn’t the cleanest strike from Mitoma as a deflection from Luke Waterfall fooled Crocombe, but they all count.
The home supporters applauded Grimsby’s players off the pitch at full time. Their FA Cup run is over, but De Zerbi may yet cap his impressive season in charge of Brighton with a trophy.
Kaoru Mitoma completed the route with a deflected strike in the last minute of the match
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