Report and free match highlights from the Sky Bet League One play-off final between Sunderland and Wycombe at Wembley Stadium as goals from Elliot Embleton and Ross Stewart sealed the Black Cats' return to the Championship
Sunday 22 May 2022 00:56, UK
Sunderland sealed their return to the Sky Bet Championship as they beat Wycombe 2-0 in the League One play-off final.
Elliot Embleton got the Black Cats off to the perfect start at Wembley, and Ross Stewart sealed the victory in front of 72,000 fans late in the second half, as they made it back to the second tier for the first time since 2018.
It was also a first victory for Sunderland in a play-off final, as they finally escaped League One after four years. Wycombe, who battled valiantly but ultimately lacked match-winning quality, could not bounce back at the first time of asking after their relegation last year.
Sunderland got off to the brighter start and had the lead on 12 minutes, thanks to a fine run from Embleton and a huge helping hand from David Stockdale in the Wycombe goal - who somehow let his shot from 20 yards through him with a bizarre attempt at keeping it out.
They took that momentum into the second half too. And they could have doubled their lead on 51 minutes as Alex Pritchard teased a fine cross into the head of Ross Stewart on the far post, but his header back across goal flew inches wide.
Wycombe struggled to create any chances, but they were nearly gifted a way back into the game on the hour mark as Anthony Stewart's punt into the box completely evaded Bailey Wright, allowing Sam Vokes in on goal. But the big striker could not get it out of his feet properly to get a shot away, and Anthony Patterson was quick to close him down and deny him.
And they would pay for that miss on 79 minutes as Stewart gave Sunderland an unassailable lead, picking up the ball from the brilliant Pritchard on the edge of the box before firing through the legs of a defender and past the helpless Stockdale.
Sunderland boss Alex Neil on Sky Sports Football:
"I thought we deserved to win. Wycombe have done great this season, we knew a lot of people had heavily backed us, but that's normal for us.
"We coped with that really well, the lads deserve it. I'm buzzing for them, and the fans. This club shouldn't be where it is, and this is the first step towards getting us back where we want to be.
"The biggest pressure was from myself - the hierarchy, the people who own the club, that's not what was discussed. How can you help us, how can you fix the things that need fixing?
"For me, coming to a job like this in League One, I don't want to manage in League One - I had to try to get the club out of League One, to become a Championship manager again, under a lot of pressure and scrutiny. But with a group of players like that, it's not a problem.
"I'm ready to go, but in a different sense. I'll enjoy my night, and have a few beers, and so should the players."
Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips on Sky Sports Football:
"I am absolutely delighted and so proud. I am not from Sunderland, but have a great affiliation for them and live in the area and I know how much it means to this football club.
"Having spent four seasons in League One, the pressures and everything that comes with it, to do it this way through the playoffs is an incredible feat.
"From Sunderland's point of view, I was lucky enough to make that trip up the stairs with Birmingham, it is an amazing feeling knowing you are going to pick up the trophy to get promotion.
"Every player to a man has been outstanding since Alex has took over. I just want to mention Lee Johnson, he did a fantastic job, took Sunderland to second place in the league, they decided to make a change, which is fine, you accept that it is football, but Alex Neil has to come in and finish the job off."
Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth on Sky Sports Football:
"The better team won today. I can't sit here and pretend that we were better than Sunderland. I thought at 1-0 there were a few nerves from them and they had chances, but they've got some good players. Congratulations to Sunderland, they deserve to be in the Championship next season.
"We'll go again and dust ourselves off. I've got a great set of boys and I'm really proud of them. But it was Sunderland's day today."
The magician at the heart of Sunderland's success. He is too good for League One at his best, and will be back in the Championship next season. He caused Wycombe so many problems all afternoon, and his work teed up the crucial second goal.
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