Danny Ward was a Huddersfield hero once again after the Championship playoff semifinals, and the Terries goalkeeper stepped up to the plate once more for his team, sending it directly into the top tier of English football.
A memorable day for Huddersfield and manager Wanger, who will be locking horns with his friend Jurgen Klopp next season in the Premiership.
Here is our in-depth match report of the Championship playoff final:
Form Guide & Team News
The two Championship sides exchanged a narrow 1-0 win apiece during the regular part of the season and headed into the Playoffs with just four points separating them in the league. Having dispatched Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham, respectively, Huddersfield and Reading headed into the final showpiece in fine form each.
Nominal hosts for the big occasion, Huddersfield, did not have any selection issues to worry about and manager David Wagner was free to field his strongest line-up lead by the talented Isaiah Brown, who is tipped to become a huge Premier League star as early as next season.
Midfielder Callum Harriot and defender Tennai Watson were the only two Reading manager Jaap Stam was unable to count upon due to their respective injuries.
It seemed that the £170 million on offer in the Championship play-off final took the better of both sides at Wembley. A passage to the Premier League makes for the biggest financial prize in football, that could rise to £290 million if the club retain their top-flight status next season, hence the understandable pressure and excitement.
Somewhat slower start to the match saw both teams cancel each other out all over the pitch.
It was Huddersflied, however, who made a brighter start to the match creating a couple of big chances in the game. Neither of the two most prominent goal attempts saw Huddersfield go forward, but it was Izzy Brown’s effort that should have put Huddersfield in front when the Chelsea loanee placed the ball wide of goal from just a couple of yards out. The exciting midfielder did not see the ball until late and even though it seemed like an easy tap-in, the Huddersfield star struggled with it.
The only other sight of goal came midway through the first half when Reading’s Lewis Grabban curled an attempt wide after working himself some space from range, but it ended up being an uneventful first 45 minutes at Wembley.
The very opening five minutes of the second half were more than enough to surpass the overall impression from the first period with two great chances on both ends of the pitch.
Chris Lowe attempted a long-range effort with dipping shot towards Reading’s goal, but Al-Habsi was well-positioned to grab the ball without problems. Minutes later, a goal-threatening chance on the other side as Swift makes a powerful attempt towards the Huddersfield goalkeeper Ward, who denied a rather good chance from Reading.
Both Wagner and Stam attempted to keep the high tempo of the game and speed it up even more onwards in the second half as they introduced a couple of changes that ended up opening the game nicely.
Reading changed the approach from the first half and pushed more on the flanks, which is where they lacked proper action in the first half. It was Huddersfield however who dominated the proceedings for the good part of the second interval with Izzy Brown creating all sorts of problems to Reading defenders.
The Terries did give their best to score and had a fine chance to do that Quaner, who did not understand the message sent to him by Wells and Mooy who pulled the ball back nicely for Huddersfield striker.
The teams ultimately failed to shake of the pressure an occasion as big as this carries with it and missed rare opportunities presented in front of them to solve their Premier League status in 90 minutes, giving fans at Wembley an extended entertainment time, if we dare call it as such.
The first ever goalless Championship finals was by no means an eventful affair, the fans will be left feeling disillusioned with the way they thought this highly-anticipated mach was going to pan out.
After 90 minutes of mainly Huddersfield’s attempts to break the deadlock, it was Reading who could have gone on top through Kelly. The extra-time substitute brought a breath of fresh air into his team’s game and it was his flick that could have easily opened the scoring close to extra time half interval.
Two long-range attempts from McCleary were another two high points from extra time, which left Huddersfield feeling lucky not to concede. Wagner’s men attempted to get back in the game and the closing minutes of extra time produced an openly-contested battle which got solved after a penalty shootout drama.
Hefele’s miss brought a cringing feeling into the hearts of Huddersfield fans, but Moore’s over the bar shot and Wards crucial save on Obita’s goal made sure Schindler’s goal secured promotion to the Premier League for Huddersfield for the first time since in 45 years.
- Huddersfield last competed at top flight in 1972
- Four points separated two sides during regular season
- Championship Play-off winners earn £170 million for promotion
- Out of 22 goal attempts only 3 shots went on target during 120 minutes
- Reading finished the game with 52% possession to Huddersfield’s 48%
HUDDERSFIELD: Ward 7 – Smith 6 (Cranie 6.5), Hefele 7, Schindler 7, Lowe 6.5 – Hogg 6.5, Mooy 7 – Kachunga 6.5 (Quaner 6.5), Brown 6.5 (Palmer 6.5), Parra 6 – Wells 6.5.
Unused subs: Coleman, Holmes-Dennis, Hudson, Whitehead.
READING: Habsi 6.5 – Illori 7, Moore 7, Blacket 6 – Gunter 6.5, Evans 6.5, Williams 7.5, Berg 7 (Obita 6) – Swift 6.5 (Kelly 6) – Kermorgant 6.5, Grabban 6 (McCleary 6).
Unused subs: Beerens, Jaakkola, Mendes, Popa.
REFEREE: Swarbrick N.
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