BRICE SAMBA saved THREE penalties to ensure Nottingham Forest survived a comeback from Sheffield United and secured a place in the Championship play-off final.
The hosts got off to a perfect start when goalkeeper Brennan Johnson scored the opening goal after less than 20 minutes and turned in a Sam Surridge cross.
But after tensions between Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom and Forest stars Johnson and Djed Spence flared up shortly before half-time, the guests came out very differently for the second period.
Morgan Gibbs-White pulled one back two minutes after the break and stabbed a Sander Berge cross home from close range.
And John Fleck equalized on aggregate after Forest’s 2-1 win at Bramall Lane in the first leg, scoring an almost identical goal with 15 minutes remaining.
Neither side could force a winner in regulation time, so it went on for another half hour.
Still, there was nothing separating them after extra time.
That was until Brice Samba put his stamp on proceedings, saving THREE penalties from Sheffield United to send his team to Wembley.
Call out the pitch invasion of cheering Forest fans.
The two-time European champion knows that after 23 years he is only one game away from a renewed place on the road to success.
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The Blades’ first two takers, Oliver Norwood and Conor Hourihane, were both brilliantly thwarted by Samba.
But when Joe Lolley nailed one for Forest, things started to get interesting.
However, Samba reappeared to deny Gibbs-White and book Forest a first-ever trip to the new Wembley.
Forest, bottom of the second division after seven games when Steve Cooper took charge in September, prevailed after the first leg despite conceding a goal late at Bramall Lane and being pushed to the limit.
The hosts were hesitant at first, pushing back into their own half as the rain started to pour down.
John Egan fired a warning shot when his header just missed the target.
Shortly after, Samba made an excellent save and charged out of his goal to smother Ndiaye’s shot after being put through one-on-one by Gibbs-White.
Then, out of nowhere, Forest reclaimed his two-goal cushion.
Scott McKenna’s long ball was picked up down the left by Surridge, whose square pass allowed an outstretched Johnson to send past Wes Foderingham.
But any thoughts despairing of the visitors were erased as they punished Forest this time for slowly coming back out of the traps to bring the tie to life two minutes after the resume.
Gibbs-White provided the finish, sweeping over Samba from Sander Berge’s low ball to the near post moments after Cook produced a dying tackle to thwart Ndiaye as he ran on target.
Nervousness around the ground mounted as Sheffield United put on sustained pressure and Forest couldn’t react much to that.
And they were rewarded in the 75th minute when George Baldock’s cross was converted after a superb run down the right flank by Fleck to level the total.
Things almost got worse for Forest when McKenna smashed a back pass past a scrambling Samba and both players were relieved when the ball drifted harmlessly wide of the goal.
Sheffield United had the first chance in extra time when Gibbs-White fired at Samba from a tight angle.
Then came Lolley and Keinan Davis, who replaced Forest, the latter kicking a leg after a cross which Foderingham blocked.
Sheffield United could have won it late but Samba made an amazing close-range save to deny Ndiaye from six yards.
Although the keeper’s heart would have been in his mouth at the death as former woodland defender Jack Robinson went down under his challenge.
Oliver didn’t point to the point or give Robinson a second caution when the game went to penalties.
Samba correctly tapped to deny Norwood, then tapped Hourihane’s attempt at the bar before saving from Gibbs-White in the corner to set off insane scenes on a memorable night for Forest.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5362170/nottingham-forest-sheffield-united-report-play-offs/ Brice Samba saves THREE penalties to send Forest to Wembley