After a 4-4 draw after extra time, Sunderland v Charlton went to penalties
Settled from 12 yards
This was truly a classic and the game could have been won on more than one occasion in the final moments of the match, both Rae and Craddock with chances to make themselves heroes.
But it wasn’t to be. The game was to be won and lost from 12 yards.
Charlton took the first penalty and it really was no surprise to anyone when Mendonca put them one nil up. Summerbee stepped up for Sunderland and put his kick away to keep the teams level.
Surprisingly, in a setting of such pressure and tension, both teams scored all five penalties to keep the match deadlocked. Mendonca, Brown, Jones, Kinsella and Bowen on target for Charlton. Sunderland’s Summerbee, Johnston, Ball, Makin and Rae matching them kick for kick.
So to sudden death; these teams had to be separated. Someone had to win and gain promotion to the Premier League. In turn, one team had to lose and someone had to miss a penalty and be at fault for the defeat.
It would be cruel that someone would have to be the villain of the piece but where there would be sorrow and pain for the losers, there would be joy and elation for the victors.
But who would it be?
Heroes and Villains
Next to step up for Charlton was Karl Robinson and he coolly found the back of the net to hand his team match point.
Niall Quinn was the man to break from the Sunderland players, stood as one with their arms round each other’s shoulders, a sign of unity. He must’ve felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, as millions of eyes watched him make the long walk from the centre circle.
No longer within the security of the group he stood alone and the fate of his club rested with him. Score or it would all be over. The big man let no one down and found the net.
Six penalties each, six goals each. How long could this continue?
Gray day for Sunderland
Shawn Newton, Charlton’s young winger, was the next man to step forward. He found the back of the net so all the pressure now shifted back to Peter Reid’s men.
Michael Gray was the 7th man Sunderland fans placed their faith in. He strode towards the ball and struck his shot low to the keepers left.
Ilic guessed right and managed to stop the ball. That was it, game over.
Charlton had done it. The players raced to their goalkeeper and the stadium erupted with noise as the Charlton fans went crazy. The release of over two hours of tension and nerves was deafening and the party lasted well into the night.
It was cruel on Sunderland and Gray who looked an inconsolable figure, but someone had to miss and so concluded the greatest playoff final in the history of the English game.
Funny old game
Sunderland picked themselves up and won the Division One Championship the following year and so gained promotion without having to go through the lottery of the playoff system.
Charlton couldn’t perform consistently enough in the Premier League and were relegated back into Division One.