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A Brief History of the EFL Championship Playoff Final


May 24, 2023

The English Football League (EFL) Championship Playoff Final is one of the biggest and most exciting events in English football. It is an annual football match contested by the teams that finish between third and sixth place on the EFL Championship table. The winner of the final is promoted to the Premier League, while the loser stays in the Championship. The playoff final has been an opportunity for teams to earn promotion to the Premier League since its inception in 1987. Here is a brief history of the EFL Championship Playoff Final.

The first EFL Championship Playoff Final was played in 1987 between Charlton Athletic and Leeds United. The match was played in a two-legged format with the first leg played at Leeds United’s Elland Road and the second leg at Charlton Athletic’s Selhurst Park. Charlton won the first leg 1-0, but Leeds won the second leg 1-0, taking the match to extra time. In extra time, Charlton’s Robert Lee scored the winning goal, securing Charlton’s promotion to the First Division.

The playoff final format changed to a one-off match in 1990. Since then, the final has been played at Wembley Stadium, London, the home of English football. Wembley has been the perfect venue for the final, with its iconic arch and capacity of 90,000 fans.

The first one-off final was played between Sunderland and Swindon Town. Sunderland won the match 1-0, securing their promotion to the First Division. However, Swindon’s promotion was revoked due to financial irregularities, and Sunderland stayed in the Second Division. Since then, Swindon has never reached the Premier League, while Sunderland has spent several seasons in the Premier League.

One of the most memorable playoff finals was the 1995 final between Bolton Wanderers and Reading. The match was played in hot weather, with the temperature reaching 29 degrees Celsius. Bolton’s Alan Thompson scored a goal in the 25th minute, which was later voted as one of the greatest Wembley goals. Reading equalized in the 79th minute, but Bolton scored again in the 88th minute, securing their promotion to the Premier League.

The 1997 final between Crystal Palace and Sheffield United was memorable for different reasons. The match saw several controversial moments, including a disallowed goal and a penalty that hit the crossbar. The match ended in a 0-0 draw, and both teams went to extra time and then to penalties. Palace won the penalty shootout 3-2, securing their promotion to the Premier League.

The 2006 final between Leeds United and Watford was a one-sided affair, with Watford winning the match 3-0. Watford’s Marlon King scored two goals, while Ashley Young scored the third. The result meant that Watford would play in the Premier League for the first time in their history. However, their stay in the Premier League was short-lived as they were relegated the following season.

The 2019 final between Aston Villa and Derby County was a classic match, which saw Villa secure their promotion to the Premier League. Aston Villa’s Anwar El Ghazi opened the scoring in the 44th minute, but Derby equalized in the second half through Jack Marriott. However, Villa’s John McGinn scored in the 59th minute, giving Villa the lead. In the 81st minute, Villa’s goalkeeper, Jed Steer made a crucial save from Derby’s Martyn Waghorn, securing Villa’s win.

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