Mooy helps Terriers into Championship playoff final
AUSTRALIAN Aaron Mooy's Huddersfield Town will face Reading in the Championship playoff final at Wembley after beating Sheffield Wednesday 4-3 on penalties.
After the score was locked at 0-0 after the first leg, the teams couldn't be separated at the end of 210 minutes of football after Steven Fletcher's opening goal was cancelled out by a Tom Lees own-goal in a tense second leg, which ended 1-1 at the end of extra-time.
Led by David Wagner, Huddersfield showed ruthless efficiency from the spot, scoring four of their five efforts, while on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward saved from Sam Hutchinson and Fernando Forestieri, which proved costly for Wednesday.
Reading and Huddersfield will battle it out for promotion at Wembley on Tuesday, May 30 (AEST), in a winner-takes-all tie which could earn either club up to $297m in Premier League revenue.
Hutchinson passed a fitness test for Wednesday ahead of the game and replaced Adam Reach from the first leg, which meant Barry Bannan moved out to the left wing.
Goalkeeper Ward returned to the Terriers line-up following his suspension.
Wednesday failed to have a single shot on target for the first time in 56 games at the John Smith's Stadium and they looked in the mood for a fast start, but their early flow was disrupted as Ross Wallace had to be replaced by Reach inside five minutes owing to injury.
Chances were at a premium as both sets of players looked petrified of making an error. The game struggled to open up but Izzy Brown missed a glorious opportunity on 25 minutes when turning Nahki Wells' low cross wide from 12 yards.
Wednesday needed inspiration and they got it six minutes after the break.
The classy Bannan, whose passing had impressed all night, found space on the left wing and delivered a fantastic ball to the back post for Fletcher. The former Sunderland striker had no real right to win the duel but rose highest and looped a header into the far corner as Hillsborough erupted.
The goal released the shackles on Huddersfield, who now needed an equaliser to keep their season alive.
Wells worked space inside the area on 53 minutes but fired wide from a presentable position while Brown's effort went the same route 10 minutes later from the edge of the box.
Wagner sensed that wide-man Elias Kachunga was tiring with time running out and sent on Collin Quaner, whose impact was immediate.
The rangy front-man, who had the look of Thierry Henry in this cameo, burst down the right flank into space and sent the ball across goal for Wells to fly in from close range and bobble the ball over the line, with the help of Wednesday defender Lees.
The two attackers linked up again with five minutes remaining but Wells this time was denied at the near post by a strong Keiren Westwood block, which forced the game into extra-time.
The game reverted to type with both sets of players sitting disciplined in their shape, keen on not sacrificing a whole season's work with a mistake.
Wednesday substitute Jordan Rhodes - formerly of Huddersfield - fashioned a chance out of very little just before the half-time break but his effort was clawed away by Ward.
Huddersfield hit back with a rally of their own after the interval and Wells fired into the side netting from an acute angle, which was met with loud roars from the away end, who thought the ball had sneaked in. That was the last of the chances as spot kicks were needed to separate the teams.
Hutchinson set the tone for the hosts with a wobbly penalty effort which put Wednesday on the back foot following early successful attempts from Chris Lowe and Michael Hefele.
All penalties were scored from that point until Jack Payne fluffed his lines for Huddersfield when given the chance to send his team through.
It meant sudden death would be needed if Forestieri scored Wednesday's fifth kick, but Ward guessed right and Huddersfield's season will have one final hurrah at Wembley Stadium.