Nottingham Forest secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years on Sunday, defeating Huddersfield 1-0 in the Championship play-off final.
Steve Cooper’s side won the most lucrative single match in world football thanks to Levi Colwill’s own goal late in the first half at Wembley. Increased revenue from promotion to the top flight is anticipated to be worth at least £170 million ($214 million).
The massive financial gain will be gladly accepted by Forest, but it was the satisfaction of finally being back among English football’s elite that sparked the frenetic celebrations among their thousands of red and white-clad followers.
For the first time in the 21st century, Forest can look forward to welcoming the Premier League’s elite to their City Ground stadium on the banks of the River Trent.
Cooper’s promotion was a personal achievement for him, who has revitalised Forest since taking over for the dismissed Chris Hughton in September.
Forest were bottom of the table after one point in their first seven games, but Cooper had the Midas touch, erasing the bitter taste of his failure with Swansea in last year’s Championship play-off final against Brentford.
Cooper salved the wounds of Forest’s worst start to a season in 108 years and kept the team focused despite squandering a chance at automatic promotion in the season’s penultimate game against top-two opponents Bournemouth.
Forest, who finished fourth, overcame Sheffield United on penalties in the play-off semi-finals and kept their nerve again to win the championship against Huddersfield.
Story of the match
Forest were the superior team in a hectic match, but there was more sweat than inspiration for long stretches as both teams’ passes went awry.
Huddersfield struggled to find a rhythm, with Forest keeper Brice Samba saving Sorba Thomas’ cross-shot.
Forest broke the deadlock via an own goal in the 43rd minute, thanks to on-loan Manchester United midfielder Garner.
Garner sent a dangerous inswinging cross into the Huddersfield area, and Colwill unwittingly deflected it into his own net as the on-loan Chelsea defender attempted to beat Yates to the ball.
Huddersfield finally picked up the pace after half-time, and Jonathan Hogg should have done better with a header that missed the target from a corner.
The deciding moment came in the 73rd minute, when Huddersfield were left angry after a strong penalty demand was denied.
Harry Toffolo was brought down by Jack Colback’s push, but referee Jon Moss booked the Huddersfield winger for diving, and VAR failed to overturn the verdict.
Huddersfield’s fury grew as another penalty appeal was turned down after Max Lowe tripped Lewis O’Brien.
When Samba walked off hurt in the final minutes, Forest’s nerves strained, but the Reds hung on to earn their return to the big time!