Derby County will take a 2-1 advantage into the second leg of their playoff semi-final against Brighton.
The Rams produced a stirring comeback in the first leg, fighting back from a goal down in front of a raucous Amex Stadium. The first leg result means that Steve McLaren’s side will be big favourites to take their place in the final on 24 May, with a place in the Premier League the reward for the victors under the Wembley arch.
The former England boss paid tribute to his team after their excellent first leg display, singling out goalscorer and creator-in-chief Chris Martin for special praise, per David Wright of the Express:
That game had everything. You saw every side of Derby.
We started badly, they started well, but we showed great character to come back and could have had a couple more.
Chris is our top scorer, he's vital to our build-up and our football. He was very effective, he scored the penalty and then hit a great strike to put us ahead.
You’d be a fool to rule Brighton out of this one, though, for they too have showcased plenty of battling qualities throughout the course of this campaign.
They scored a late, late goal to secure their playoff spot on the final day of the season against Nottingham Forest, and it’s moments like that which mean Oscar Garcia’s side will be confident of getting the result required at Pride Park.
They’ll be desperate to avoid heartbreak in the semi-finals for the second consecutive year; they lost 2-0 on aggregate to bitter rivals Crystal Palace at this stage last season.
Typically, the second legs of these playoff games are gripping contests. The onus is the Seagulls to attack the home team, and that’s sure to make for a thoroughly entertaining spectacle.
Here’s all the information you need on where to catch the game both on television and via a stream:
Date: Sunday 11 May 2014
Time: 5:15 p.m. (BST), 12:15 p.m. (ET)
Live Stream: Live via Sky Go App (UK), Live on beIN Sports Play (US)
TV Info: Live on Sky Sports 2 and Sky Sports 2 HD (UK)
The first leg started at a furious pace, with neither team capable of settling into a rhythm during the opening stages. Brighton took the lead in the 18th minute when on loan Manchester United forward Jesse Lingard fired home at the second time of asking, sending the Amex Stadium into delirium.
But the Brighton faithful were soon silenced by the visitors, as the Rams wrestled back control of the game. A penalty from Martin and an own goal from Brighton ‘keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, after Martin’s shot ricocheted off the crossbar, gave the visitors a 2-1 lead at the break, and they showed a level of maturity to hold out under some strong pressure from the hosts in the second half.
After winning both of the league fixtures between the two sides, this was Derby’s third victory over Brighton this season.
The Rams finished third in the Championship, five points clear of QPR in fourth. But statistics suggest that if McClaren had been there from the start of the campaign, they may have had a chance of automatic promotion, as Squawka noted here:
McClaren’s managerial reputation was in tatters after his failure with the Three Lions, but the job he has done with Derby has gone a long way to him re-establishing his managerial standing. He’d certainly go down in the annals of Pride Park history should he guide Derby back to the top flight after a six-year hiatus.
Brighton boss Garcia was a little aggrieved after the first leg, insisting that the result was “unfair” and that his team were “better in all areas”, per BBC Sport.
You suspect they’ll look to dominate the ball in typical fashion in the second leg, but they must find more penetration if they’re to cause this Derby team any worries. The Seagulls must play with patience throughout the 90 minutes and when their chances come, they simply have to be ruthless.
The key in this game looks set to be the Derby counter-attack. At the Amex they looked very dangerous on the break throughout the second half, and with a one-goal buffer, expect McClaren’s men to sit deep and quickly spring forward after regaining possession.
It’s also worth noting ahead of this one that the away goal rule does not apply in the playoffs, meaning a 1-0 win for Brighton would be enough to take the tie into extra-time.
But unfortunately for those travelling up to the Midlands from the south coast, it looks set to be a fruitless trip. Derby have been wonderful since McClaren has been at the helm, and it’s difficult to see them relinquishing their grip on this tie.
Expect the Rams to see the job through with another professional showing.
Prediction: Derby 1-0 Brighton