Sheffield Wednesday booked their place in the Championship play-off final after playing to a 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion at Falmer Stadium on Monday night, recording a 3-1 aggregate victory in the process.
- Brighton 1 Sheff Weds 1
- Dunk puts Brighton in front
- Wallace levels for Owls on 28 mins
- Sheffield win 3-1 on aggregate
- Owls book their place in the play-off final
- Final takes place at Wembley on 28 May
Brighton started the match at a high tempo, creating a whole host of chances early on. A sustained period of pressure finally took its toll in the 19th minute as Lewis Dunk volleyed home to give the hosts the lead.
However, any hopes of drawing level on aggregate were quashed in the 28th minute as Ross Wallace’s cross-cum-shot evaded everyone in the danger area before crossing the line.
Despite creating plenty of opportunities, the hosts were unable to force another breakthrough as the Owls held firm to claim a 3-1 aggregate win and a place in the play-off final.
Knowing they needed to overturn a two-goal deficit, Brighton came flying out of the starting blocks and created a number of quality chances inside the opening 20 minutes.
Steve Sidwell fired straight at Owls keeper Keiren Westwood after just three minutes of play, while Anthony Knockaert struck the post with a well-struck free-kick after being tripped on the edge of the area by Wednesday defender Glenn Loovens.
They again went close in the 14th minute when Knockaert fired a driven free-kick under the wall. However, Westwood was alert to the danger, getting down well to his left to snap up the ball.
Brighton continued to pile on the pressure, with Knockaert and Sam Baldock almost breaking the deadlock for the hosts.
They eventually got the breakthrough they were looking for in the 19th minute. Knockaert was the architect, delivering a curling effort towards the back post where Dunk was on hand to volley home.
Having been forced to sit back and defend for the opening 20 minutes, the Owls eventually managed to recover their composure and drew level against the run of play just two minutes before the half-hour mark. Ross Wallace made some space for himself out wide on the right-hand flank and whipped in a cross, the ball evading both Dunk and Gary Hooper before nestling in the bottom corner.
The equaliser sparked an immediate reaction from the hosts as they redoubled their efforts in a bid to quickly reclaim the lead.
However, Westwood was equal to the task, denying James Wilson in a one-on-one situation, before Jiri Skalak fired just inches over the bar direct from a free-kick in the 36th minute.
After a brief lull in play, the first half ended with a flurry of excitement as both sides went agonisingly close to claiming the lead.
Wednesday’s Kieran Lee came to the visitors’ rescue after clearing the ball off the line, while at the opposite end of the pitch, Gary Hooper’s header from just ten yards out was somehow kept out by David Stockdale in the Brighton goal.
Brighton started the second half just as they had started the first, and almost claimed the lead inside three minutes. Skalak’s goal-bound effort was blocked by the impressive Westwood and the ball fell to Wilson who was unable to force the ball over the line from a narrow angle.
Westwood was again called into action just one minute and did well to deny Wilson after the striker turned and unleashed a tame shot from the edge of the area.
The visitors managed to weather the storm, though, and started to exert some control as the half wore on. They managed to take the sting out of Brighton’s attack as they sat back and defended in a solid block.
And their plan to try and hit Brighton on the counter nearly paid dividends in the 76th minute when Kieran Lee picked out Atdhe Nuhiu at the back post. However, the striker couldn’t direct his headed effort on target as the ball flew harmlessly over the bar.
With time running out, Brighton shifted Dunk up-front and employed a more direct approach. They were met with stern opposition, though, as they struggled to break down an obstinate Wednesday defence. Wilson fired wide of the mark from the edge of the area on 85 minutes, while substitute Kazenga LuaLuashot wide of Westwood’s goal five minutes later.
Brighton had just six minutes of injury time to score two goals and force the match to extra time, but it proved to be a case of too little, too late as the Owls held firm to book their place at Wembley.