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Winners of League One Playoff Final seal promotion to Championship in thrilling battle

The winners of Saturday’s League One Playoff Final seal promotion to the Championship in what was a thrilling battle between the two.

Sunderland came face to face with Wycombe with the winner joining Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United in the second tier next season.

The Black Cats made the final after a 2-1 aggregate win against Sheffield Wednesday while Wycombe won their play-off semi-final against MK Dons 2-1 on aggregate.

It was the first time VAR (video assistant referee) was being used in the EFL playoff finals. Time to see how the game itself played out…

3: FREE-KICK! Cirkin was brought down by Scowen five yards outside the box. Early free-kick for Sunderland – in a position Pritchard will fancy.

4: WIDE! Pritchard’s shot hit the side netting with Stockdale probably getting to it – and the Sunderland fans were briefly on their feet from the other end of the ground thinking the ball had gone in

5: CLOSE! Pritchard dropped into the half-space and hit it in low from the right flank. Tafazolli missed a stooping header which allowed it to run through to Stewart – though he wasn’t not expecting it and is caught on his heels as the ball ran through.

7: A first real chance to attack for Wycombe. McCleary lines up a cross from a similar position to Pritchard, and lifts it straight into Patterson’s arms.

9: Wycombe had started nervously but seem more settled after that early close call. Pritchard is pulling the strings in midfield for Sunderland though, and looking dangerous.

10: CLOSE! It’s he who spreads it wide for Embleton here though, and his deep cross is threatening to curl under Stockdale’s bar and needs palming away. Corner.

11: Pritchard whips it in, but it’s glanced away in the middle. Evans recycles the ball from the far side, before it goes behind off a Sunderland body.

GOAL! Sunderland 1-0 Wycombe (Embleton, 12)
First blood Sunderland at Wembley – and 44,000 Black Cats go wild! Sunderland exchange passes on the half-way line before Embleton is given far too much time to run through the Wycombe midfield, which they’ve threatened to do a few times already. It’s a long-ranger from the midfielder but it should never be allowed in by Stockdale, who doesn’t dive and is beaten far too easily with a shot which barely misses his left arm.

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam at Wembley: “That is the start Sunderland craved. It was the start they needed so Wycombe couldn’t just sit in and frustrate them.

“And it’s a home-grown Sunderland man who has given them the lead in Embleton – who was given the nod by Neil for this one after playing just nine minutes or so over the two semi-finals.

“It takes a slight nick, but Stockdale had time there to sort himself out. Should have done better.”

Andy Hinchcliffe on Sky Sports: “It’s a laboured reaction from Stockdale, strange, it’s just a lack of reaction … it’s just not like Wycombe to give away cheap goals.

“There is a little bit of movement on the ball, but his reaction shows he was just not expecting it, he was not ready.”

15: Stockdale took some deep breaths after playing a big part in Sunderland’s lead

16: Great defending from Stewart, clearing Roberts’ cross with a diving header ahead of two Sunderland players around him.

18: McCarthy got to the byline down the right, away from Cirkin, however with Vokes a little off the pace his ball into the near post is held by Patterson.

21: OFFSIDE! McCleary got the ball on the edge of the box and got into the area, before coming back and picking out Vokes, who nodded well wide and was offside

27: SAVE! Partial redemption for Stockdale as Stewart bends one around McCarthy from just outside the area and forces him into a full-length dive. He’d be nearly as disappointed had he let that one in than the Sunderland opener – but a bit of a confidence boost at least.

32: Another moment for Wycombe passes them by – they’ve yet to threaten anything inside the Sunderland box. A long ball forwards wins them a throw-in deep in Sunderland territory but when it’s then launched into the area, it’s simple for Patterson again.

34: CORNER! Stewart puts his head in where it hurts to turn away another Pritchard ball in, at the expense of a Sunderland corner.

35: OVER! Wright got on the end of Batth’s knock back across goal, and sent a header onto the roof of the net.

36: OFFSIDE! Stewart laid the ball back to Roberts on the edge of the box, before Jacobson caught the back of his heel on the slide. Referee Hooper takes a long look at it before the offside flag goes up against Stewart – which is just as well, because that is a penalty all day long otherwise.

40: Wycombe have enjoyed a bit more of the play in the last few minutes but are still doing little to threaten the Sunderland goal. With five minutes to go before the break they’ve had two touches in the opposition box, and no shots on target.

42: Sunderland nearly change all that by giving Wycombe a helping hand as Batth’s stooping header back to Patterson falls short. Just before Vokes can intercept in flies Wright, who takes ball and man with a great bit of defending to clear the danger.

44: Pritchard loses out in the Wycombe half and slides in late on McCarthy as he comes away with the ball. He escapes a booking with one of the most nailed-on yellows you’re ever likely to see.

45: WIDE! Stewart rises highest in the box when a deep Jacobson free-kick from the left finds him at the back post. It’s never in danger of forcing Patterson into action for the first time this afternoon.

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam at Wembley: “It is very much advantage Sunderland at the break. They have been dominant – albeit while not creating a huge amount aside from the goal.

“Wycombe have struggled to threaten. They are yet to win a single corner, and Sunderland and Patterson have dealt brilliantly with any crosses or free-kicks they have managed to get into the box.

“A season-defining 45 minutes coming up for both sides. Stay tuned.”

47: McCleary nips in ahead of Cirkin and is brought down by the Sunderland left-back in the channel, in a really inviting crossing position. This is exactly the kind of moment Wycombe thrive on…

48: It’s whipped in by Jacobson, and punched away by Patterson. That’s as close to a shot on target as we’ve seen from Wycombe so far…

51: WIDE! The Sunderland fans have been slightly muted since half-time with Wycombe keeping them at arm’s length. That is until Pritchard floats a cross to the far side of the box where Stewart meets it unmarked, and nods a whisker past the far post.

54: Lewis Wing is being readied – Wycombe have had their ‘you’ve got 10 minutes to change things around’ and now Gareth Ainsworth is about to take action himself.

58: Silly from Jacobson, who catches O’Nien on the turn in the Sunderland half. Wycombe have played the game at least 10 yards further up the pitch since the interval but that just relieves a bit of pressure on Sunderland.

60: BIG CHANCE! Stewart lifts a ball into the box from the right touchline which Wright misjudges and allows to bounce for Vokes. The striker isn’t expecting it, gets it stuck under his feet and eventually stuck under the body of Patterson when he does, in what’s a big chance passed up for the Chairboys.

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam at Wembley: “There might have been the chance for Wycombe. Shocker from Bailey Wright, and he’ll be so relieved Vokes couldn’t find the finish when presented with that glorious opening. A huge let-off for Sunderland.”

64: A chance almost opens up for Wycombe in the box when Stewart swings in a cross for Vokes, which he tries to nod down for Wing but doesn’t make a clean connection on.

67: NO PENALTY! Roberts comes inside off the right and exchanges passes with Stewart into the area. He’s sandwiched out by Stewart and Jacobson and ends up on the floor, but Simon Hooper points for a corner – and incurs the ire of the Sunderland support and forward line. Looking at the replay he certainly had a shout, but it’s not one VAR would ever be likely to overturn.

69: Wycombe deal with the first corner before Sunderland come again, as Clarke gets to the byline and pulls it back for Stewart, who’s denied by Tafazolli’s block. Another corner.

71: Stewart thinks Sunderland should have a third when he peels off at the back post and looks to lob the ball back across the six-yard box, but it lands on the roof of the net. He’s determined he should have a corner, a shout which leaves Jacobson grinning in his face.

74: SUB! Akinfenwa was subbed on for his last game of his career. It feels like he’s meant to score. But with Sunderland’s level of comfort in this game so far, will he get a chance?

76: Akinfenwa’s first touch from a long Stewart ball forward is like trapping a bag of cement. You can’t help but smile. Sunderland struggle to clear at first before he almost threads McCleary through, but Cirkin reads it well.

GOAL! Sunderland 2-0 Wycombe (Stewart, 79)

Sunderland switched the ball from the right with Pritchard allowed to bring it infield before finding Stewart on the edge of the box.

He shifted it onto his right, fired through his namesake Stewart’s legs and past Stockdale – who is again didn’t move. Absolute limbs in the Sunderland end.

82: WIDE! Ainsworth wrung his arms on the touchline just after that second went in. He knows it’s a mountain to climb now for his Wycombe players. And it nearly gets worse for them – Stewart has the taste for goals now and gets onto a threaded ball before holding off Tafazolli and firing wide of the far post from 20 yards.

83: As Wycombe push forward, in desperate need of a way back into this, the holes being left at the back are like a red rag to a bull for Sunderland. Roberts now races to the edge of the box and slips it into Stewart, who goes down weakly under pressure in the area. Hooper rightly waves it away.

85: WIDE! If anyone’s getting another goal in this game it’s Sunderland. Another Wycombe attack breaks down and within seconds, Gooch has played it down the line for Roberts to chase. He gets into the box with Clarke in space on the far side, but goes for goal himself and bends it just past Stockdale’s dive and a foot or so wide. 85: CLOSE! A McCarthy cross is half-cleared to Scowen, who has time to bring it down and pick his spot. He bends it towards the far corner before Wright nods it out for a corner.

87: The corner is nodded clear and kept alive on the far side by Stewart, who gets to the byline but fires straight into Patterson’s arms. The final pass or shot just hasn’t come off for Wycombe all afternoon.

87: BLOCK! Superb stuff from O’Nien. McCleary thinks he’s got time to have a go from 25 yards but the Sunderland man – who spent three years as a Wycombe player – denies him with a flying block.

90+1: SO CLOSE! What a run from Clarke, beating three men on a 30-yard dribble into the Wycombe area. A bit of play like that deserves the finish to go with it to seal victory, but Stockdale stands strong to deny him from close-range.

Sky Sports’ EFL Editor Simeon Gholam at Wembley: “It is job done for Sunderland! After four years in League One, and two failed play-off campaigns, they are back in the Sky Bet Championship!

“They deserve it on this afternoon’s display. Far better than Wycombe in all areas from start to finish. The Chairboys battled valiantly, but ultimately lacked any sort of match-winning quality.

“There will be parties aplenty in London, and on Wearside tonight. You can be sure of that.”

Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth: “The best team won today. They’ve got good players that will do well in the Championship next season.

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved this season and we’ll go again stronger next year. There’s no blame, only pride.”

Sunderland boss Alex Neil told Sky Sports: “I thought we deserved to win, Wycombe did great this season, we knew people back us and we were favourites, but that’s normal for us.

“We coped really well, and the lads deserve. This is the first step on getting back to where we want to be.

“I focus on the guys that matter who are the players and they got the job done.

“I’ll start thinking about next season when my hangover wears off.”

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