London - Brighton came from 2-0 down and were then behind in a shoot-out
before they beat Millwall 5-4 on penalties to reach an FA Cup semi-final
with quadruple-chasing Manchester City on Sunday.
Championship strugglers Millwall were on the brink of delighting their
home crowd at the Den at 2-0 up with just two minutes of normal time
left after second-half goals by Alex Pearce and Aiden O'Brien.
Brighton pulled one back through Jurgen Locadia and then, in the fifth
minute of added on time and the last act of regulation play, Solly
March's seemingly harmless free-kick into the box left Millwall
goalkeeper David Martin flapping at the ball before it settled in the
top corner to send the tie into extra-time.
Millwall were reduced
to 10 men a minute from the end of extra time when likely penalty-taker
Shane Ferguson was sent off for a petulant stamp on Lewis Dunk.
the very end of extra time, Brighton thought they had a winner only for
Martin Montoya, in a match without VAR, to be incorrectly flagged for
offside as the tie headed to spot-kicks.
Further drama followed when Brighton's Glenn Murray struck the opening penalty of the shoot-out onto the crossbar.
sides then found the back of the net until Brighton's Australian
goalkeeper Mat Ryan blocked Mahlon Romeo's effort with his legs to leave
the shoot-out level at 3-3 before 'sudden death' came into play at 4-4.
skipper Dunk then powered a penalty low to Martin's right before, with
Millwall needing to score to keep the tie alive, Jake Cooper saw his
shot clear the goal.
character," Brighton manager Chris Hughton told the BBC. "I think at 2-0
down with the thought of going out of the competition, we had a group
of players that decided they desperately wanted to stay in the Cup."
to March's bizarre equaliser, Hughton added: "A little bit of fortune
(went) our way. But you have to give our lads credit."
made no secret of the fact he'd rather the Seagulls faced either
top-flight rivals Watford or Wolves, the other semi-finalists, in the
last four at Wembley next month.
"I don't think it is any surprise
that all three teams didn't want to draw Man City but at this moment
we're so pleased to go through," he said.
"If in any way we don't think we can win the semi-final there's almost no point going into it."
Millwall manager Neil Harris tried to console his goalkeeper.
"David Martin is one of the best pros I have come across.
"He was outstanding for the whole game barring one moment. That is football."
had no sympathy for Ferguson, though. "Shane Ferguson is our best
penalty-taker and wasn't on the pitch because of a moment of stupidity,"
he said. "Missing the chance to lead the team in an FA Cup semi-final
is a huge frustration for myself, staff, players and fans."
beaten FA Cup finalists in 1983, had the best chance of a lacklustre
first half, with Beram Kayal volleying straight at Martin.
London side Millwall, defeated in the 2004 FA Cup final by Manchester
United - Brighton's conquerors in 1983 - were rewarded for a strong
second-half showing with two goals in nine minutes.
the scoring in the 70th minute when Pearce headed in at the back post
and doubled their lead when O'Brien nodded in Jed Wallace's cross.
Brighton substitute Locadia's left-footed shot appeared a consolation goal before March broke Millwall hearts.
FA Cup semi-final draw made on Sunday:
Watford v Wolves
Manchester City v Brighton
Ties to be played at Wembley on the weekend of April 6-7