Wed, May 18, 2016 - Page 19 News List

Sheffield Wednesday make playoff final at Wembly


Sheffield Wednesday players dive on the grass at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton and Hove, England, on Monday as they celebrate their win over Brighton & Hove Albion to advance to the Championship final.

Photo: Reuters

Sheffield Wednesday reached the Championship playoff decider after a 1-1 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion in their semi-final, second leg on Monday secured a 3-1 aggregate win to bring a lucrative Premier League spot closer.

Carlos Carvalhal’s side are to play at Wembley on Saturday next week to face Hull City or Derby County, with the former leading 3-0 ahead of yesterday’s home return leg, for a place in the top flight which could be worth up to £170 million (US$244.73 million).

Brighton took the lead through a Lewis Dunk volley after 19 minutes, but a controversial Ross Wallace equalizer just before the half-hour mark, after Dunk seemed to be pushed in the area, ensured that the game finished level with the Owls in the final.

“We didn’t play our usual game and I think the players were a bit nervous,” said Carvalhal, whose sixth-placed side upset an Albion team, who finished third. “After what Brighton did this season, they don’t deserve this moment, but that is football.”

“To go to Wembley and play is fantastic,” Carvalhal said. “We will be 50-50 in the final, but we will fight and do our best.”

No team had overturned a semi-final, first-leg deficit of two goals or more in the second-tier playoffs, but Brighton were determined to try, with Anthony Knockaert hitting the post with a free-kick after 10 minutes as they piled on the pressure.

Keiren Westwood kept Brighton out with some fine saves, but nine minutes later the hosts went ahead on the night as centerback Dunk volleyed in with his right foot at the back post from Knockaert’s free-kick after defender Tom Lees missed the ball.

However, in the 28th minute, Wallace crossed from the right and the ball evaded everyone and flew into the far corner with the referee ignoring appeals for a foul on Dunk, who appeared to be pushed by Gary Hooper when challenging for the ball.

Wednesday finished sixth in the table to take the last playoff spot, 15 points behind Chris Hughton’s Brighton, but it is the South Yorkshire side who are one game from returning to the top flight for the first time since 2000.

It was Brighton’s third Championship play-off semi-final defeat in four years as their bid to return to the top flight for the first time since the 1982-1983 season continues.

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