Evan Ferguson scored a brace to help Brighton produce one of the comprehensive football results of the weekend in the FA Cup. Deniz Undav struck within six minutes, then Ferguson, 18, had a standout afternoon, striking two goals before Solly March nodded in the fourth and Kaoru Mitoma sealed the Mariners’ misery. Town was only the sixth tier-four team in tournament history to reach this level, and they were trying to do something no one had done before: overcome their dominant Premier League opponents. The Seagulls’ return to the semi-finals will be only their third, putting them in contention for their first trophy challenge since 1983.
It was always going to be difficult for Town, who are 76 places lower in the pyramid than their opponents on Sunday. Grimsby had overcome Southampton to get here, but Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton, with their sights set on Europe, were a different breed. Ferguson tested Max Crocombe with a low effort from just inside the box in the first two minutes, which the visiting goalkeeper collected calmly. Grimsby had a brief stint in the hosts’ half before Brighton went on the offensive again, calmly passing before looking for the best opportunity to score an early goal.
Moises Caicedo felt he had that moment when he fired a low effort from the center, but Crocombe denied him, fumbling the save and allowing the awaiting Undav to pounce and bury the rebound inside six minutes. The Mariners’ supporters remained unfazed, increasing louder as their team collected a few insignificant set pieces, and Anthony Driscoll-Glennon made a good sliding tackle to clear Mitoma’s shot from a tight angle – though it ultimately looked destined to go across the face of the goal.
Crocombe denied Undav’s attempt to head in March’s cross as Albion pressed, with the hosts coming close when Pascal Gross delivered a delivery to Mitoma at the far post from the right side of the area. From six yards out, the Japan international stretched out to toe the ball in but instead steered it wide. Three additional opportunities by Mitoma, Caicedo, and Pascal Gross all fell short, and the visitors did well to break up Mitoma’s run in extra time to give themselves a chance after the restart.
Instead, Brighton took the early lead when March’s cross from the left wing clipped the left post and bounced to Undav, who misfired with his unfavorable left foot. Yet, it wasn’t long before the hosts made it two. Ferguson, with his back to goal, was found by Alexis MacAllister, who skillfully brought the ball down with his left foot, transferred it to his right on the pivot, and blasted home. Ferguson completed his hat trick as Undav slipped the ball to him, setting up the Republic of Ireland international for a straightforward finish into the bottom-left corner.
After 82 minutes, March put a header past Crocombe that appeared to secure the result, but Mitoma ensured he had been involved in a goal in each of his four FA Cup games this season, smashing home Brighton’s fifth in the final minute of normal time.
“We can choose to travel to Wembley as tourists or to compete. I understand it will be difficult, but if you play, you want to win. Always. At each and every competition. I believe it is beneficial to us. We want to adjust our goal, and setting a higher goal makes it easier to fail, but it is the only way to grow, evolve, and improve,” Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi said. “I’d rather improve, possibly lose [along the way], but hit the objective harder. I don’t enjoy being targeted too readily. I’m at a loss for words. But I don’t want this uncertainty. I desire everything. I want to compete in every event. I’m not sure where we’ll end up or what we’ll accomplish, but I know we’re ready to battle. We are prepared to attempt to win and to attain our goal.”
“It’s odd to lose a game 5-0 and have your fans almost celebrate and cheer as if you’ve won,” Grimsby manager Paul Hurst said. “I’ve told a few people that I’m not sure what would have occurred if we had won the game, so it was a great occasion. And seeing the number of people waiting to meet the bus and send their best wishes to you is what it’s all about.”
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