Caltex Socceroos goalkeeper Mathew Ryan was the penalty shoot-out hero for Brighton and Hove Albion as the Premier League side beat Millwall 5-4 on penalties (2-2 after full-time) in an electrifying FA Cup quarter-final tie overnight.
The 26-year-old former Hyundai A-League star provided the crucial spot-kick save, hanging out a right leg to deny Millwall’s Mahlon Romeo, to ensure Brighton face Manchester City in a Wembley semi-final on the weekend of April 6-7.
Ryan’s brilliant save in front of the travelling Seagulls cohort crowned a remarkable turnaround from Chris Hughton’s side, who earlier seemed destined to crash out following Alex Pearce and Aiden O’Brien’s goals late in the second half.
However, Brighton striker Jurgen Locadia sparked an epic comeback with a powerful turn and finish in the 88th minute before Millwall goalkeeper David Martin inexplicably allowed Solly March’s free-kick to slip through his hands in the last seconds of the encounter.
Earlier in normal time, Ryan pulled off strong saves from Jed Wallace and Lee Gregory which ultimately kept the East Sussex side afloat.
Brighton might just require another inspirational performance from the Australian gloveman in order to topple Premier League giants City at Wembley in April.
But Seagulls manager Hughton told the club’s website that anything is possible when the two sides face off for a spot in the final.
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“Of course, we can [upset the odds], but at this moment we’re just delighted that we’ve gone through,” Hughton said.
“I don’t think I’m saying anything out of turn when I say the three of us [Albion, Watford and Wolves] would have wanted to avoid Manchester City.
“At this moment they’re one of the best teams in the world and going for trophies in four competitions.
“But as was shown today and yesterday, teams can get close to upsets. If you have enough going for you, and the opposition don’t have one of their better days, then who knows what can happen?”
Elsewhere in Europe, Aziz Behich and Trent Sainsbury were unused substitutes as PSV Eindhoven beat VVV-Venlo 1-0 to extend their lead at the Eredivisie summit to five points.
Robbie Kruse was also not involved as Vfl Bochum went down 3-1 to Arminia in the 2. Bundesliga.
Meanwhile, Tom Rogic returned to training earlier last week but was absent from the match day squad as Celtic netted a last-minute match winner through Odsonne Edouard to beat Dundee 1-0 in the Scottish Premiership.
In Japan, Mitch Langerak’s Nagoya Grampus suffered their first loss in the J-League, going down 1-0 to FC Tokyo thanks to a Kensuke Nagai's second half strike.
The Caltex Socceroos goalkeeper made a strong low save to deny Nagai a double shortly after, but that did not inspire a fightback from his side.
Also in the J-League, Andrew Nabbout was an unused substitute for Urawa Red Diamonds, beat Cerezo Osaka 2-1.