LONDON (AFP) - Hull City hit the promotion jackpot as Mohamed Diame’s stunning strike sent them back to the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Exactly 370 days after being relegated from the Premier League, Steve Bruce’s side sealed their third promotion to the top flight in nine seasons thanks to Senegal midfielder Diame’s moment of magic at Wembley.
Diame’s majestic second-half winner means Hull will bank the huge cash windfall due to Premier League clubs as a result of the new television contracts that kick in next season.
While Wednesday would have made £170 million (S$340 million) if they had gone up, the value to the Tigers is £110 million as they will have to forgo parachute payments pending following their relegation last year.
But it is the pride of counting themselves among English football’s 20 elite clubs that matters most to Hull, whose promotion was a much-needed tonic for the club’s Egyptian owner Assem Allam, who is seriously ill in hospital.
“I thought we had too many big chances and kept missing them, but thankfully Diame has come up with a wonder goal that would grace any cup final,” Bruce said.
It was also a record-breaking achievement for Bruce, who is the first manager to win four promotions to the top flight in the Premier League era.
The former Manchester United defender took Birmingham up in 2002 and 2007, and was also promoted with Hull in 2013.
Diame’s heroics continued Hull’s hectic recent history as they have been promoted in 2013, reached the FA Cup final in 2014, relegated in 2015 and now promoted again.
Hull finished nine points ahead of Wednesday in the second-tier table and were making their third trip to Wembley in the last two years, while their Yorkshire rivals were appearing at the national stadium for the first time since the 1993 FA Cup final.
Championship finals are notoriously tight affairs, but it was Wednesday, seeking to end their 16-year exile from the Premier League, who made the brighter start.
Fernando Forestieri tested Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic with an inswinging free-kick after he won the set-piece by accelerating away from Michael Dawson, who was booked for hacking down the Wednesday forward.
Jakupovic also had to dive low to his left to punch away a Ross Wallace free-kick, but Hull gradually began to take control.
The Tigers came close to snatching the lead when Abel Hernandez met Robert Snodgrass’s corner with a powerful header that was chested off the line by Kieran Lee before Dawson’s effort from the rebound was scrambled clear.
Hernandez threatened again moments later when the Uruguay forward raced onto Diame’s pass into the penalty area, only to see his shot brilliantly pushed over by Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.
With Hull pressing hard for the opener, Diame embarked on a mazy run past three Wednesday defenders before hammering his shot against the near post.
Bruce’s team were swarming forward as half-time approached and Moses Odubajo should have done better than shoot straight at Westwood from Ahmed Elmohamady’s clever pass.
There was no let-up from Hull after the interval.
Snodgrass’s cross reached Dawson at the far post and the Hull defender had time to control with his chest, but once again Westwood came to the rescue with another fine save.
Andrew Robertson was guilty of a far worse miss when he fired high over the bar after Odubajo’s cross left him with only Westwood to beat from eight yards.
Hull finally made their pressure pay in the 72nd minute when Snodgrass pounced on a miscued clearance from Tom Lees and slipped the ball to Diame, who took a touch before bending a sublime strike into the top corner from 25 yards.
Wednesday appealed in vain for a penalty in stoppage-time when Dawson blocked Lucas Joao’s shot and moments later Hull were able to start celebrating.