Sinclair takes Swansea into top flight
Swansea City became the first Welsh team to reach the Premier League since the competition's inception in 1992 after a hat-trick from Scott Sinclair inspired them to a wonderfully entertaining 4-2 win over Reading in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Swans boss Brendan Rodgers emulated John Toshack by securing the club's first promotion to the top flight since 1981, ending the hopes of the club he represented for 14 years as a player, coach and manager prior to his dismissal at the Madejski Stadium last season.
Sinclair scored twice in the first half, once from a penalty, and Stephen Dobbie added a third as the team that finished third in the table opened up what looked to be an unassailable lead. But Reading's brilliant start to the second half made this a spectacle to rival that of the Champions League final which was played at the same stadium just two days previously.
An own goal from Joe Allen and a towering header from Matt Mills brought Reading firmly back into contention, before Jem Karacan struck the foot of the post and Garry Monk produced an incredible block to deny Noel Hunt scoring from the rebound. However, Swansea's nerves were finally settled on 80 minutes when Sinclair scored his second penalty of a dramatic afternoon.
For all Reading's endeavour and the audacity of their attempted comeback, they were undermined throughout by poor defending. A disastrous first half in that regard was embodied by the figure of Zurab Khizanishvili, who had an unwitting hand in three goals and should have been sent off.
Having already been booked after indulging in a childish spat with Fabio Borini, the defender, currently on loan from Blackburn Rovers, clumsily fouled Nathan Dyer in the box after 21 minutes to concede a silly penalty.
He escaped a second booking, but Reading were punished for his rash challenge when Sinclair strode confidently up to take the penalty and stroked the ball home as he sent Adam Federici the wrong way from the spot.
It was the forward's 20th goal of a wonderful season, and number 21 was just 36 seconds away. Reading were still dealing with the mental fallout from the penalty as Dobbie took a nice touch and accelerated all-too easily away from Khizanishvili and past Ian Harte. Adam Federici got a faint touch to the cross but only turned the ball into the path of Sinclair, who gratefully slotted home for a second.
Reading threatened intermittently, with Hunt heading wide after haring towards the near post to meet a cross, but again played directly into Swansea's hands. After 40 minutes, a cross from Dyer was met by Khizanishvili, who instead of clearing merely poked the ball into Dobbie's path. His finish was accomplished and controlled as he sent the ball inside the far corner.
Two days after the Champions League final, 'OIes' rang out from the Swansea support as the Championship's answer to Barcelona revelled in their unexpected three-goal lead. Meanwhile, Reading's malaise was evident when Shane Long produced an air shot with the goal at his mercy and Brian McDermott's woes increased when his assistant Nigel Gibbs and substitute Jay Tabb were dismissed for foul and abusive language at half-time.
Seemingly down and out, Reading summoned up a superb response and pulled one back when Allen, under pressure from Hunt, inadvertently headed into his own net from a Jobi McAnuff corner. On 57 minutes Swansea were undone by another set-piece as Matt Mills rose above a stationary defence to head past Dorus De Vries.
Swansea were rocking, and only a superb block from Monk prevented it from becoming 3-3. The defender threw himself in front of the ball as Hunt attempted to tap into an empty net after a shot from Karacan.
Reading's supporters were full of enthusiasm but yet again some suspect defending ultimately proved their undoing. On 80 minutes, Andy Griffin was guilty of a clumsy challenge on Borini and Sinclair, scoring a second penalty, brought an end to Reading's comeback and guaranteed Swansea's promotion to the top flight.