Brighton 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday (agg 1-3): Owls reach Wembley
By Lewis Jones at The Amex
Last Updated: 17/05/16 7:21am
Sheffield Wednesday are one game away from a Premier League return after a 1-1 draw earned them a 3-1 aggregate win over Brighton and sent them to the Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Wednesday are looking to return to the top tier of English football after a 16-season absence and their 2-0 advantage from the first-leg proved a step too far for brave Brighton, who only missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference.
No team in the history of the Championship play-offs has ever successfully overturned a two-goal first leg deficit in the semi-final but Brighton gave it a good go, taking the lead through Lewis Dunk and creating numerous chances in a one-sided first half where Wednesday goalkeeper Kieran Westwood starred.
However, Ross Wallace's fortunate and controversial equaliser on 28 minutes took the sting out of Brighton's rampant early charge.
With this two-legged victory Wednesday have become just the second team in the last 11 Championships seasons to finish sixth and make the play-off final - the last three to get there have all gone onto win. In the final they will likely play Hull City, who hold a 3-0 first-leg advantage over Derby County.
Brighton were given a huge boost at kick-off with two of their four men that limped off injured in the first-leg remarkably fit to start. Both Steve Sidwell and Anthony Knockaert took the field while Wednesday remained unchanged.
Brighton needed a fast start if they had any hope of overturning the deficit and with Knockaert at the forefront, they swarmed all over the visitors.
Kieren Westwood had to be quick off his line to block a Dunk effort after three minutes as Brighton were carrying an intensity that Wednesday didn't have to deal with at Hillsborough.
Knockaert came within inches of the opening goal on 11 minutes but his immaculate 20-yard free-kick cannoned off the inside of the post and rolled to safety.
Brighton's main man was it again minutes later, firing an effort inches wide before he missed an even better chance on 18 minutes. A cross from the left had the Wednesday defence in all sorts of problems and Knockaert somehow managed to head wide at the back post from no more than six yards out.
Brighton continued to knock at the Wednesday door and it opened a minute later. Knockaert delivered another pin-point free kick that was flicked on by Bruno and hammered home from close range by Dunk.
The Amex erupted and Wednesday looked shell-shocked. They needed some relief and they got it eight minutes later with an unlikely equaliser.
Wallace found space on the right and checked back to whip a cross into the area with his left foot.
Dunk and Hooper challenged for the ball but an apparent push on the defender from the striker meant they both missed it and it ended up bouncing into the far corner. The Brighton players claimed a foul but the referee allowed the goal to stand.
Westwood was called into action again on 33 minutes as he gobbled up a close range effort from James Wilson, one of nine shots on target he had to deal with in the opening 45 minutes.
After dominating the first half, Brighton could have found themselves behind at the break as Hooper was denied by a strong one-handed save by David Stockdale after a quick counter attack.
Brighton's first-half exertions took their toll in the second period as they ran out of gas. With Knockaert isolated on the left, Wednesday defended deep, soaked up their pressure and were a threat on the break.
Barry Bannan tested Stockdale on 53 minutes with a tasty drive that the goalkeeper gathered at the second attempt before substitute Atdhe Nuhiu headed wide at the back post on 77 minutes.
Brighton threw four men into attack for the final eight minutes and Dunk had an effort blocked by Westwood but Wednesday stood strong and booked their Wembley date on May 28.