Johnston and Phillips score; Perez makes key late save in '98.
Sunderland 2 Sheffield United 0
May 13th 1998
Play-off semi-final second leg (Sunderland win 3-2 on aggregate)
Having trailed 2-1 from the first leg, the Black Cats went into this game with Sheffield United knowing only a win would send them to Wembley and keep their promotion hopes alive.
Niall Quinn and Michael Gray returned to the starting line-up as Peter Reid’s men went on to book their place in the final with a 2-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.
Allan Johnston got the hosts off to a dream start when he cut inside from the left and smashed a shot towards goal that United’s Nicky Marker deflected past Simon Tracey in the Blades goal.
Kevin Phillips had a fine season in front of goal and he doubled the advantage for Sunderland on the stroke of half-time.
‘Superkev’ was unstoppable all season and this goal equalled Brian Clough’s post-war goalscoring record of 34 goals in a season.
Though Phillips and Johnston would take the plaudits, it was French goalkeeper Lionel Perez who won the tie for the Black Cats, producing a superb double save in the closing stages.
Paul Devlin’s shot looked destined for the top corner but Perez somehow managed to reach and push the ball away before picking himself up to block Dean Saunders’ rebound effort when the whole ground expected the Welshman to score.
Sunderland: Perez, Holloway, Gray, Clark, Craddock, Williams, Summerbee, Ball, Quinn, Phillips (Dichio), Johnston.
Subs not used: Ord, Rae.