Top 5 Championship Play-off Finals: Swansea joy and magic Mendonca
Fulham face Villa in this weekend’s edition
All eyes are on Wembley once again this Saturday as Fulham face Aston Villa in ‘the richest game in football’ – the Championship Play-Off Final.
But it’s also a game of unforgettable memories for fans, and has produced some of the most iconic Football League moments in the past few decades.
The Coral News Team look at five of the finest, kicking off with East London ecstasy…
Charlton (p) 4-4 Sunderland (1998)
While five different players found the net in this unforgettable clash, it’s a game forever linked with Addicks striker Clive Mendonca. The Charlton hitman bagged a hat-trick in a game of endless twists and turns.
He opened the scoring on 23 minutes with a stunning turn and finish. But the Black Cats responded with two goals early in the second-half. Eight minutes later, Mendonca struck again. 2-2.
The Wearsiders led once more in normal time, before a late Richard Rufus equaliser. Again in extra-time, Charlton trailed before a brilliant Mendonca finish made it 4-4. Cue penalties, and a 7-6 Addicks win in sudden death. Phew!
Barnsley 2-4 Ipswich Town (2000)
The Tractor Boys enjoyed one of their finest ever campaigns in 2000-01, finishing fifth in the Premier League under boss George Burley. But it could have been so different…
Heading towards the half-hour mark at Wembley, they were 1-0 down against Barnsley, who looked like doubling their advantage. But a bullet header from 36-year-old defender Tony Mowbray levelled the scores in his last ever game.
Cue the second-half, and the momentum was all with Ipswich. Goals from Richard Naylor and the prolific Marcus Stewart made it 3-1. Despite a late scare when Craig Hignett netted for the Tykes, this was the Suffolk club’s day in the sun.
Bristol City 0-1 Hull City (2008)
After 104 years of existence, the Humberside club secured their first ever season of Premier League football in 2008. And for those of a black-and-amber persuasion, the circumstances could hardly have been sweeter.
Despite the Robins having much of the play and creating the bulk of the chances, they failed to do what Hull’s hometown hero Dean Windass did – score.
The veteran hitman fired home a thundering volley in the 38th-minute, to give Hull the advantage. And despite a fair few scares, Phil Brown’s defence held firm to full-time.
Reading 2-4 Swansea City (2011)
A young Scott Sinclair wrote his name in the history books in a thrilling 2011 edition, bagging a hat-trick for the Swans – who secured top-flight football after a 28 year wait.
His first two came within the space of as many minutes midway through the first-half, before Scott Dobbie made it 3-0 shortly before the break.
But it wasn’t over. An unfortunate Joe Allen own-goal was followed by a bullet header from Reading’s Matt Mills before the hour.
Still, the Swans’ backline held firm before Sinclair sent them into dreamland with another well-taken spot-kick, to secure a 4-2 win.
Blackpool 1-2 West Ham United (2012)
Both of these sides were aiming to bounce back to the Premier League after relegation the previous season. And this was a terrific, hard fought contest which could have gone either way.
Carlton Cole’s neat touch and finish broke the deadlock on 35 minutes, silencing the Blackpool fans behind the goal. But they found their voice again three minutes after the break when Tom Ince finished smartly for the Tangerines.
That’s how it stayed until three minutes from time, when Ricardo Vaz Te pounced from close-range following a goalmouth scramble. That powered the Irons to the Prem, where they’ve stayed ever since.
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