Friday, 9 May 2014 | MYT 5:12 AM

Soccer-First blood to Derby in opening playoff semi-final

(Reuters) - Derby County came from behind to win 2-1 at Brighton and Hove Albion thanks to an own goal by unlucky home keeper Tomasz Kuszczak in their English Championship (second tier) playoff semi-final first leg on Thursday.

Chris Martin's shot just before halftime struck the crossbar and rebounded into the net off the Polish stopper's back after Martin had brought the scores level with a penalty following Jesse Lingard's early opener for the hosts.

The two teams, who are chasing a spot in the Premier League, will meet again on Sunday with the aggregate winners reaching the May 24 playoff final against either Wigan Athletic or Queens Park Rangers, who play their semi-final first leg on Friday.

Brighton, who reached the playoffs thanks to a stoppage-time winner at the end of the league season, took the lead after 18 minutes when on-loan Manchester United forward Lingard slammed the ball home after his first effort was blocked.

Classy Derby, who finished third behind automatically promoted Leicester City and Burnley in the league standings, were not trailing Oscar Garcia's Brighton for long.

Former England manager Steve McClaren's Derby side equalised through Martin's perfectly-placed penalty just before the half hour following a rash foul by ex-England defender Matthew Upson.

A fine move then led to Derby's fortuitous winner and they held on for the victory with the unlucky hosts hitting the woodwork in the second half.

(Writing by Mark Meadows; editing by Ken Ferris)


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