I can’t think of too many better penalty shoot-out performances than Brice Samba’s tonight. Three saves, two of them belters, and the first preceded by some dark-arts delay. I can’t say he totally psyched out Blades’ takers because the pressure they were under without him was immense beyond comprehension, but he absolutely amped it up, then backed it up. an absolutely gigantic effort.
In the stands, Garry Birtles celebrates, while Stuart Broad simply looks on, moist-eyed and dumbstruck. Next to him, Joe Root isn’t – he must’ve chipped, and I don’t blame him.
It’s mad really, Forest, winners of two European Cups, have been out of the top division – haven’t even made a playoff final – for 23 years. It feels wrong to say any club is more deserving than any other club, but it feels absolutely right to say forest deserve this. They meet Huddersfield a week Sunday – if they’re not still on the City Ground pitch.
The City Ground pitch is a swaying sea of bodies and love. Football, eh? Oh my days, where would we be, what would we do without it?
I guess there’ll be some consolation for the poor lads who missed, in that two others did too. But this is going to hurt them for a long, long time – as long as they live and probably longer. But they should be proud of everything they’ve done to get here and everything they’ve done tonight – they’ve done themselves, their families and their clubs proud.
Oh man, what a night! Forest fans invade the pitch, flares all over the show, and the players are lost among it all. Poor old Blades, who did so brilliantly to fight back, but what a performance from Samba, who made two terrific saves during the game, one at 0-0 and one just before time, then saved a phenomenal three penalties! Tonight will be the greatest day of his life!
Gibbs-White stutters, stutters again, and a poor kick is easily saved by Samba! Three saves! WHAT A MAN !
Lolley steps up to win it … and up goes the head, so he smashes over the bar! Blades are still alive!
Ndiaye opens his body and passes into the right side-netting. But if Forest score next, it’s over.
Here comes Steve Cook, and he goes high and left as Foderingham dives right. Blades must score next!
Berge goes left and Samba dives right!
this is a poor penalty, down the middle, but Foderingham can only deflect Cafu’s kick into the net!
Hourihane goes down the middle, Samba stands, I’ve no idea why, extends a hand barely away from his body, and sends the ball onto the bar and away! Forest are flying!
Johnson passes into the bottom right. Lovely pen.
Samba takes a drink, takes his time, making Norwood wait. This is so, so, so evil – ooh yeah! AND WHAT A SAVE SAMBA! Norwood goes to the keeper’s right, highish, and the keeper prangs clear!
Blades will go first, at the away end. Norwood to take…
“These accusations of ‘over-celebrating’ are for the birds,” reckons Matt Burtz. “How do these people want the second goal in the first leg of a semi-final to be acknowledged? Just a hearty handshake and a pat on the back? Don’t let them score if you don’t want to see it. P.S. One Headlight by The Wallflowers instantly takes me back to high school.”
We should celebrate less in life. Imagine thinking that.
“Speaking of rather decent extra times,” returns Harriet Osborn. “Featuring a certain aforementioned Forest benchwarmer… The Concacaf Nations League Final (the only one that’s happened to date).”
But before we get to the unbridled joy and searing pain, let’s biggup both sets of players, who’ve given this tie everything – twice. Hold tight, old mates.
This is an absolute epidemic of excruciation. Every fan we see looks ready to vomit up their soul.
120+1 min OH MY DAYS! WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? A ball over the top, bouncing; Samba charges out again, leaps to try and get a touch or stop Robinson from getting a touch, Robinson goes down … is that a penalty? No, it’s a yellow card for diving!
120 min There’ll be two additional minutes.
120 min My days, we’re going to have penalties. I feel ill, and I don’t even care who wins.
119 min Garner seems to have a hamstring issue, so is replaced by Cafu.
118 min Hourihane appears down the left, arcs a low cross for Gibbs-White that needs just a touch, not unlike the one from which he scored, and this time his stab at is just misses.
118 min Spence has been much higher in the second period, but again he wallops a cross that misses everyone.
116 min Now here come Forest, Lolley collecting possession out on the right and weaving inside on his left foot. He sees the headlines, jinks across a defender … and fires a shot just wide!
115 min I’ve no idea what happens next, but the ball finds itself in the middle and Gibbs-White wins the knockdown, finding Ndiaye! Again, he’s in front of goal, again, all he has to do is not hit the keeper … and again, Samba makes himself gigantic, saving a scuffed effort with his foot! What a chance that was! If Blades lose here, Ndiaye is going to feel very poorly, possibly for the rest of his life!
114 min Nice from Berge, nipping infield and across Yates before unleashing a shot that’s defelcted behind.
113 min We see some crowd shots – there’s a lot of lip-chewing and finger-biting. Actually, we should have that permanently inset – there’s just as much drama in the stands as on the pitch.
111 min Lovely from Gibbs-White, who’s been the best player on the pitch tonight, turning Cook on the half-turn with Zidane-like feet and body-movement. Naturally, Cook ploughs through him and is booked.
110 min Excellent again from Davis, who collects the ball out on the left, near halfway, heads infield and finds Spence … whose cross whistles across the box.
109 min Foderingham is good to carry on – I think he hurt himself kicking a clearance – but his team are under pressure here.
108 min First change for Blades, Osborn replacing the terrific Baldock. Meantime, Foderingham is down, then Heckingbottom sends on Hourihane for Fleck.
107 min And now it’s Spence down the right, his cross a decent one but a bit high, forcing Johnson to leap into a volley that Foderingham saves.
106 min Lolley bursts through midfield! He’s got Johnson to his right, Davis to his left, and picks the former, but the ball’s a little behind him, so he can’t cut inside and head for goal, so instead he crosses low, and Lolley slips as he shoots, his effort dribbling into Foderingham’s dive.
106 min Here we go! This is sapping me, and I’ve no dog in the fight.
The whistle goes with Forest preparing to take a corner, which doesn’t amuse them. But there’s not loads going on here now – it’s ridiculously tense.
105 min In the last 15 minutes of normal time, Davis looked likeliest to settle things, but he’s barely had a kick since then.
104 min Ndiaye is becoming increasingly influential, pulling left and crossing low, but Samba is there to collect.
102 min Here’s Garner again finding Colback and accepting Diaye’s foul; Diaye is booked, and Garner’s free-kick is a poor, floaty affair directed towards the back post. It comes to nothing.
101 min It’s a weird thing to say, but Garner is coming into this a little – perhaps because it’s slowed down. Though he’s got ability on the ball, there are doubts about him physically – is he quick enough or strong enough? – and nothing we’ve seen tonight suggests that he is.