27 Jan 2017

United through to League Cup final

11:54 am on 27 January 2017

Manchester United reached the League Cup final but were made to sweat as Hull City won the second leg of their last-four encounter 2-1 to come within one goal of forcing extra time.

Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Tom Huddlestone of Hull City.

Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Tom Huddlestone of Hull City. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hull's Oumar Niasse scored in the 85th minute to reduce the aggregate deficit to 3-2, but there was to be no fairytale comeback for the Premier League relegation strugglers who were spirited in their efforts to overturn their 2-0 first-leg defeat.

Tom Huddlestone had put the hosts ahead after 35 minutes from the penalty spot, but they were unable to turn the screw and allowed a much-improved United to claw their way back into the match after the break when Paul Pogba stabbed in an equaliser.

Niasse steered home a David Meyler cross from close range but Jose Mourinho's side held on to set up a clash against Southampton in the final at Wembley on February 26th after the Saints upset Liverpool at Anfield yesterday.

Hull faced a daunting prospect to drag themselves back into the tie and made seven changes to their starting lineup in a sign that manager Marco Silva had perhaps already decided a Wembley final was beyond them.

The encounter had the feel of a foregone conclusion too as both sets of players seemed to be going through the motions in a dour opening 25 minutes when neither side created a chance.

Hull City's Michael Dawson spurned the first glimmer of an opening when he was tackled as he looked to pull the trigger, but the deadlock was broken after 35 minutes following a penalty decision that caused initial confusion.

Replays showed that United defender Marcos Rojo had barely tugged the shirt of Hull's Harry Maguire, who tumbled to the ground prompting referee Jon Moss to award the spot kick that Huddlestone rifled into the bottom corner.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic drew a superb one-handed save from David Marshall, but it was not until the second half that United showed true signs of life.

They had their own penalty appeal waved away when Chris Smalling tumbled to the ground after contact with Huddlestone, sparking an angry touchline reaction from Jose Mourinho as his 54th birthday threatened to turn sour.

The United manager's mood mellowed, however, with 25 minutes remaining when Pogba pounced on a misplaced ball from Huddlestone in his own area to stab United level on the night and restore their two-goal aggregate cushion.

Rojo and Niasse rattled the crossbar with headers at either end before the latter set up a nervy finale for United, who will bid for a fifth League Cup triumph and first since 2010 when they face Southampton next month.