SUNDERLAND: Crystal Palace defeated Sunderland 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out here on Monday to book their place in the first division play-off final.
Michael Hughes proved Palace's match-winner when his spot-kick just had enough on it to beat Sunderland keeper Mart Poom who had saved 10-man Palace's two previous penalties in the Stadium of Light shoot-out.
But Palace goalkeeper Nico Vaesen was equally impressive in the shoot-out saving Jeff Whitley's tame strike after the teenager deliberately stalled in his run-up in a futile bid to deceive the shot-stopper.
Earlier in the shoot-out, Vaesen also dived to his right to impressively keep out experienced Republic of Ireland international Jason McAteer's effort.
Sunderland were on the brink of victory when Palace subsitute Darren Powell headed home in the final minute of normal time to make it 2-1 on the night to the home side but 4-4 on aggregate.
Palace had earlier seen Julian Gray sent off five minutes before the end of normal time.
Mick McCarthy's men had looked on course for the play-off final when Sunderland strikers Kevin Kyle and Marcus Stewart both scored in the first half to overturn a 3-2 first-leg deficit.
The result was a triumph for Palace manager Iain Dowie, who when he took over just before Christmas, inherited a club who were nearer the relegation zone than the top six. – AFP