Luton deservedly booked their place in the Championship play-off final after a stunning 2-0 second leg win saw them beat Sunderland 3-2 on aggregate on Tuesday night.
They will face either Middlesbrough or Coventry – who play each other in the other second leg on Wednesday night, live on Sky Sports Football – at Wembley next Saturday for a place in the Premier League.
Rob Edwards’ Hatters trailed 2-1 after Saturday’s first leg and set out to equalize from the off, which they did after 10 minutes, when Gabriel Osho headed the ball over the bar. line from just one of many sets. -pieces of guests struggling to deal with the whole night.
That goal, combined with the intensity at Kenilworth Road, did not sit well with Sunderland, who had the fourth-best away record in the division during the regular campaign.
But when they needed a performance on the road, Tom Lockyer’s header before the break swung the momentum in Luton’s favour, and the Black Cats couldn’t find a way back.
How Luton’s brave fight was rewarded with a trip to Wembley
From the word go, it has the makings of a classic. The setting is one of the most unique stadiums in the second level, the atmosphere is composed of passion and anxiety in equal measure. A pantomime villain emerged earlier, too, in Amad Diallo, whose unnecessary theatrics quickly angered the home fans.
As they did on Wearside four days earlier, Luton drew first blood. Sunderland failed to deal with an inswinging corner, and with goalkeeper Anthony Patterson missing, Osho pounced to bundle in the opener to restore parity on aggregate.
Two important saves in quick succession from Ethan Horvath denied Pierre Ekwah an equaliser, while Diallo continued to try to find pockets from launching one of his trademark long-range efforts. , but Luton was unwilling to give him the space he desired to operate.
The Hatters were denied a second as Luke O’Nien palmed away Carlton Morris’s shot from the line midway through the first half, but they held on to put the Black Cats under the cosh and reap the rewards on the left the break when Lockyer showed great determination to head home Alfie Doughty’s delicious cross.
Just a few seconds after the break, Luton could have taken the game away from their opponents. Patterson swept up after O’Nien’s mistake, but made a hash of his own pass, which fell straight to Morris, but he couldn’t keep his composure and skied his shot.
Most of the second half passed without incident, but as the conclusion approached, Luton were forced to dig deep in defence, knowing that a Sunderland goal would result in extra-time. Dig deep they did, with every block or tackle celebrated in the stands as if it was a goal.
And when the final whistle was blown, with Luton’s clean sheet intact, they moved within a game of the Premier League, 14 years after they were relegated from the EFL.
Player of the match – Tom Lockyer
Luton’s Tom Lockyer speaking on Sky Sports Football:
“Commiserations to Sunderland, it was an absolute battle over two legs. We had to mix it up against them today, be gritty and dirty and that’s how we won the game.
“To see Luton in the Premier League is huge. It’s been almost 10 years in non-League and to have that journey, it’s almost a fairy tale. The fans deserve their day at Wembley and hopefully we can send them home happy.”
Edwards: I’m happy but there’s still work to do
Luton boss Rob Edwards spoke to Sky Sports:
“It’s unbelievable. I’m very proud of the players and happy for this football club, these fans and everyone connected with the club. To go to Wembley and a final is unbelievable. I know there’s more work to do. but it feels so good.
“We started well and on the front foot as we hoped and it went as planned. You can’t plan to score at the right moments, but you hope it will turn out like that. We started on the front foot and put they are under a lot of pressure. To raise two goals is great and to see it is even better. In both legs they have no load and many chances. Tonight, we have a lot. I think this is one It’s a well-deserved win. I’m happy for the lads.”
Mowbray: The ingredients are gone, but I’m proud
Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray spoke to Sky Sports:
“We know their strengths and we know our potential weaknesses and it really paid off. I just told them how proud I am of everyone. they’ve done this year and unfortunately we ran out of ammunition for what you need in a football team.
“I always say that football teams are made up of speed, quality, size, physicality and talent. We’re missing some ingredients in our team. We have to give them a lot of credit. They expect. They scored from in set plays we know is our Achilles heel. The main message is how proud I am of the team.”
Analysis: Luton have been through the ringer – they are in dreamland
Curtis Davies on Sky Sports Football:
“They are in dreamland at the minute. There are a lot of clubs that have dropped down from the Premier League and are expecting to be promoted. To see a club like Luton Town in the middle of it, people don’t expect it. after last season they didn’t have the passion. To overcome a deficit to go to Wembley. It’s a credit to them and the players. But Wembley is not the goal. This is the Premier League.
“This club has been through the ringer for the last 10 to 12 years. They left the Football League and have to come back. After everything that has happened financially for the club, going to the Premier League will help to maintain these positions forward. The money that comes with it, the infrastructure will be very transformative for the club and the community.
Kevin Phillips on Sky Sports Football:
“When you come into the game with the lead, especially with their away form this season, you expect them to go and win the game. But you don’t finish third in this league for nothing like Luton did .
“Sunderland can be very proud of what they have achieved this season. To be promoted and then finish in the play-offs, it will stand them in good stead for next season. on the side, but the fans should be proud to their players.”
while Sunderland remain in the Sky Bet Championship for the 2023/24 campaign, Luton play Middlesbrough or Coventry in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium at 4.45pm on Saturday May 27 for a place in the Premier League.