Hull City sealed an instant return to the Premier League after narrowly defeating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 in the Football League Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium.
Steve Bruce’s men followed Championship winners Burnley’s footsteps by returning to the English top-flight at the first time of asking, with midfielder Mohamed Diame the match winner with a delightful second-half strike that was worthy of winning any game – let alone a tense play-off final.
In doing so; the Tigers become only the second team in 18 years to be promoted to the Premier League after finishing fourth in the regular Championship season, after finishing two places and nine points ahead of the Owls in the overall league standings.
Hull completely dominated the opening 45 minutes inside the national stadium, and were very unfortunate to not hold an advantage at the interval, but for some goalkeeping heroics from the Owls’ Keiren Westwood.
Midfielder Tom Huddlestone produced the game’s first shot on target, but his effort was drilled straight at the Wednesday shot stopper after just four minutes.
For Wednesday, top goalscorer Fernando Forestieri scuppered the opposition’s only real goalscoring chance of the first period, with his free-kick being unconvincingly punched away by Tigers ‘keeper Eldin Jakupovic shortly after.
But his opposite number; Westwood, was in sensational form down the other end, denying Abel Hernandez in stunning style in a crucial one-on-one, shortly after Kieran Lee had cleared an earlier header from the Uruguayan off the line.
Just five minutes before half-time, Hull ace Diame came the closest to opening the deadlock after wriggling past three Sheffield Wednesday players before rattling the near post.
With neither side deciding to enforce a substitution or two, the second-half started much like the first, with Westwood saving Wednesday’s blushes after brilliantly blocking Michael Dawson’s close-range shot.
Then full-back Andrew Robertson; who scored in the play-off semi-final against Derby County, undoubtedly wasted the best chance of the match so far on the hour-mark, with the Scotland international thrashing his golden opportunity well over the bar, despite being in acres of space.
But with 72 minutes on the clock; after coming the closest in the opening half, the powerful Diame spectacularly broke the deadlock.
The 28-year-old picked the ball up outside the 18-yard area before beating the inspired Westwood with an unstoppable curling drive – his tenth, and most vital, goal of the season.
Teammate Moses Odubajo failed to double Hull’s advantage moments later after flashing his effort wide, before Owls defender Glenn Loovens did well to block Hernandez’s dangerous effort heading into the final seven minutes.
Deep into stoppage-time; six minutes to be exact, substitute Jeremy Helan blew the final chance to salvage extra-time for Wednesday, scooping the ball over the bar in desperation.
The full-time whistle blew. Hull City follow in Burnley’s footsteps by sealing an instant return to the English top-flight.
Tigers boss Steve Bruce also became the first manager to win four promotions to the Premier League. A job well done.