Hughes wins shoot-out to put Palace in final

Sunderland 2 Crystal Palace 1 <i>(aet; score at 90 min 2-1; agg 4-4; Palace win 5-4 on pens)</i>
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The Independent Football

Penalty shoot-outs began the season in the North-East and last night they ended them. Newcastle missed in front of their own supporters in August to deny themselves the Champions' League while Sunderland did the same last night and saw the Premiership slip away. The cost to both was roughly the same, perhaps £20m.

Penalty shoot-outs began the season in the North-East and last night they ended them. Newcastle missed in front of their own supporters in August to deny themselves the Champions' League while Sunderland did the same last night and saw the Premiership slip away. The cost to both was roughly the same, perhaps £20m.

Michael Gray, who saw his crucial penalty saved in the 1998 play-off final with Charlton was in the stands at the Stadium of Light and he could have reflected on how inflation has affected football. Then, his penalty cost Sunderland just £10m.

The camera tends to linger on the losers in these situations. John Oster struck the post, Jason McAteer and Jeff Whitley produced weak efforts which roused their manager, Mick McCarthy, to complete fury. Three times Crystal Palace had chances to win the game, twice they were denied by Mart Poom who had been indifferent in the first leg but was exceptional last night. Michael Hughes' penalty, like Oster's, struck the inside of the post, but this went in, to clinch the shoot-out 5-4.

Palace were fortunate that Neil Shipperley's shoving aside of Poom did not prevent Darren Powell's stoppage-time header which levelled this tie on aggregate just as Sunderland were turning their minds towards Cardiff. McAteer said Sunderland felt "utterly utterly robbed". Julian Gray might have felt the same. He was shown a second yellow card for a rash tackle on McAteer and will miss the final.

His manager, Iain Dowie, said he was "as proud as I have ever been in football". His has been an astonishing journey. When he arrived at Selhurst Park in December, Crystal Palace looked likely not to be starting next season in the First Division for the very good reason that they were hurtling towards the Second.

McCarthy said beforehand that he would know after two minutes whether Palace had come to Wearside to protect their one-goal lead from the first leg at Selhurst Park. He had his answer after three minutes when Poom saved at full stretch from Gray and shortly afterwards when Aki Riihilahti's header struck the post.

McAteer was the night's pivotal figure. The goals he created came against a raging torrent of football that at times threatened to sweep his team away. They were, however, marvellously taken and came at the end of a first half which Palace had coolly dominated.

There have been many on Wearside who doubted that, however willing Kevin Kyle is, he was not Premiership quality. The way he chested down McAteer's cross and shot home, suggested otherwise. When, moments later, Marcus Stewart flung himself at McAteer's cross to head into the corner of Nico Vaesen's net, disbelief would have been the principal emotion. It lingered throughout the night.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Poom; Bjorklund, Breen, Babb, McCartney; Thornton (Robinson, 61) McAteer, Whitley, Oster; Stewart (Smith, 81), Kyle. Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), Clark, Williams.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Vaesen; Butterfield (Freedman, 61), Leigertwood, Popovic, Granville; Routledge, Hughes, Riihilahti (Derry, 58), Gray; Shipperley, Johnson. Substitutes not used: Berthelin (gk), Powell, Black.

Referee: D Pugh (Merseyside).

HOW THE PENALTY DRAMA UNFOLDED

(each team takes a penalty alternately, with Sunderland going first)

SUNDERLAND: Oster (misses); Smith (scores); Babb (scores); Robinson (scores); Breen (scores): Total: 4 out of 5

CRYSTAL PALACE: Johnson (scores); Freedman (scores);
Shipperley (scores); Popovic (scores); Derry (misses): Total: 4 out of 5

SUDDEN DEATH

SUNDERLAND: McAteer (misses); Whitley (misses)

CRYSTAL PALACE: Routledge (misses); Hughes (scores)

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