Carlos Carvalhal vowed to “wake up the giant” after leading Sheffield Wednesday to Wembley and the brink of promotion. Our editor Sarah Winterburn is pleased.
The Owls are one match from a return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, following a 3-1 aggregate win in the play-off semi-final against Brighton.
Ross Wallace’s goal cancelled out Lewis Dunk’s opener to secure a 1-1 draw on the night and send Wednesday back to the national stadium for the first time in 23 years.
Portuguese coach Cavalhal said: “We know we have made history, it’s been a long time for Sheffield Wednesday and it’s very important for the club. Now we can wake up the giant.”
Brighton, 2-0 down from Friday’s first leg, looked set to mount a comeback when Dunk stabbed in from a free-kick, with Anthony Knockaert having previously hit a post and headed wide from all of four yards out.
But Wallace, who opened the scoring at Hillsborough, equalised when his cross curled straight in just before the half-hour mark.
The last few weeks have not been kind to the Seagulls, who finished 15 points ahead of their opponents but missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference.
Cavalhal added: “Let me give a to word to Brighton and their manager. They had a fantastic season, they fought until the last minute to get promotion. They deserve promotion.
“But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve it. We have grown up together like a team, we played better and better.
“In the first half Brighton created lots of problems. It was very tough. We felt big pain to achieve this but we deserve it. We fought a lot.”
The Seagulls were convinced Dunk was fouled by Gary Hooper as Wallace’s cross sailed over his head and into the net.
The goal was a punch in the solar plexus for the hosts, and one they could not recover from.
“It’s always difficult in the second leg to be 2-0 down, even at home, but we had great belief we could turn it around,” said manager Chris Hughton.
“In the first period it turned out that way. We felt if we got the first goal things would change and it would lift the stadium.
“We should have been at least one up before we got the goal. But things have gone against us in the last few weeks, and their goal was a foul on Dunk.
“That makes it tougher – at 1-1 they have motivation. That was really frustrating. The disappointment is massive.”