Huddersfield promoted to Premier League after an ordeal of a play-off final
WHEN one penalty miss is the difference between Premier League football next season or another year in the Championship, it feels cruel to decide such a big game that way.
However, that is what it came down to yesterday between Huddersfield and Reading at Wembley and when Reading’s Jordan Obita saw his penalty saved by Danny Ward and Christopher Schindler scored to earn Huddersfield promotion to the top flight of English football for the first time, the stark reality of what was at stake really kicked in.
For the Terriers, the numbers involved with promotion to the Premier League are staggering and early estimations are that promotion will see Huddersfield earn £170 million from next season alone.
In terms of match action, this wasn’t a final with a host of chances for both clubs. Huddersfield were the better team in the opening 45 minutes and should have taken the lead through Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown.
However, when the ball fell to him at the back post, he fluffed his lines and prodded the ball wide of the post. Luckily for him, that miss didn’t cost his side a place in the Premier League.
That was the only highlight from the 90 minutes of regular time.
As the second half played out, it became scrappy and there were clear signs of nerves as both teams committed needless fouls. With the game approaching the end of regular time, it seemed teams were gearing up for an extra half-hour and taking fewer risks so as not to give away a silly goal.
Extra time played out like the 90 minutes prior, neither team creating any clear-cut chances. It was always going to take one decisive moment and in the end it came down to penalties.
When Ward, on loan from Liverpool, dived to his left to keep out Obita’s penalty, Huddersfield fans could taste the Premier League.
Schindler stepped up, in front of the travelling Huddersfield fans as he cooly slotted past Ali al-Habsi and wheeled away to soak up the jubilation.
For Huddersfield, leaving Wembley is the greatest feeling in the world as the realisation of what next season brings kicks in. The planning begins immediately, given that they are a few weeks behind Newcastle and Brighton in terms of preparation, and manager David Wagner has shown that he has the tactical acumen not to be phased by the rigours of the Premier League.
However, for Reading, how they pick themselves up over the summer is crucial. Losing in this manner can linger on the minds of players and coaches and they will need to put it out of their heads as they look to go one further next season.