Just one afternoon of football stands between two teams and a place in the most exciting league in the world…
Sky Bet Championship Play-off Final, Saturday 26 May, 4pm, Sky Sports Football/HD (CH 513/503)
For most clubs, victory at Wembley is the end of a big adventure. For the winners of the Sky Bet Championship Play-off Final, it’s only the beginning.
Last year, Huddersfield Town secured their place in the Premier League by overcoming Reading after a penalty shoot-out. This year, it’s Fulham and Aston Villa heading for the national stadium on bank holiday weekend – but which of them will be playing alongside the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur next season?
The West Londoners have been in better form than the West Midlanders – but the pressure and intensity of the game mean it’s impossible to predict. However, as you can see from the five classic moments below, what we do know is that this winner-takes-all match for promotion to the Premier League is one that rarely disappoints…
1. A thrill-fest for the ages
Charlton Athletic 4-4 Sunderland, 1998
The drama of this topsy-turvy battle is still ingrained on every viewer’s memory. Charlton led twice. Sunderland equalised twice. Sunderland led twice. Charlton equalised twice. Boyhood Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick for Charlton. Numerous chances to win the game were spurned. The first 13 penalties of the shoot-out were scored. And then Sunderland’s Michael Gray had his spot kick saved by Sasa Ilic. Charlton were going up.
2. A spot-on day for Birmingham
Birmingham City 1-1 Norwich City, 2002
After losing in the semi-finals of the 1999, 2000 and 2001 play-offs, Birmingham City finally made it to the final in 2002. With the score 0-0 at 90 minutes and 1-1 after extra time, the game went to penalties. After Norwich’s Phil Mulryne and Daryl Sutch failed to find the net, 18-year-old Darren Carter stepped up to end the Blues’ 16-year exile from the top flight.
3. Windass’ wonder strike
Hull City 1-0 Bristol City, 2008
Sometimes fairy tales do come true. At the age of 39 and in his first appearance at Wembley, Dean Windass fired home a stunning volley to claim the only goal of the match and fire Hull City – the club where he had started his career – into the Premier League. It would be the first time in the club’s 104-year history that they played in English football’s top division.
4. A game of two halves
Swansea City 4-2 Reading, 2011
In the opening 45 minutes of this pulsating clash, Swansea roared into a 3-0 lead. In the second 45, Reading brought the score back to 3-1, then 3-2, and then Jem Karacan’s deflected shot flew past Dorus De Vries in the Swansea goal and… hit the base of the post. Swansea had escaped. They weathered the rest of the Reading storm, and then broke up the field to win an 80th-minute penalty. Scott Sinclair stroked it home to complete his hat-trick and ensure the Swans were the first Welsh club to reach the Premier League.
5. Bobby breaks Derby hearts
Queen’s Park Rangers 1-0 Derby County, 2014
With QPR down to ten men and Derby firing shot after shot at Rob Green’s goal, it seemed that there could be only one winner. Then, in the final minute, the West London side launched a rare raid into their opponent’s half. Junior Hoilett crossed, Derby failed to clear and substitute Bobby Zamora slammed his shot – the only one Rangers managed to get on target in the entire 90 minutes – into the net to seal his side’s promotion.
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