Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba was the hero as he saved three penalties in the shootout to send his side through to the Championship playoff final at the expense of Sheffield United.
Forest went into the home leg with a 2-1 lead from the first leg on Saturday at Bramall Lane.
And when Brennan Johnson gave the Forest the lead on the night after just 20 minutes, it looked as though Steve Cooper’s side were easing their way to Wembley to face Huddersfield.
However, the Blades weren’t going to roll over.
Morgan Gibbs-White scored within minutes to make it 3-2 on aggregate before John Fleck levelled the scores with 15 minutes of the 90 remaining.
Neither could find a winner in the latter stages of normal time, while extra-time was a tense affair. Penalties would settle the tie.
As we witnessed with the FA Cup final on Saturday, there will always be heroes and villains when it comes to penalty shootouts.
The hero? Step forward Forest’s Congolese goalkeeper, Samba.
Samba made three remarkable saves in the shootout from Oliver Norwood, Conor Hourihane and Gibbs‑White to send Cooper’s men to Wembley.
His first save was from Norwood, with a fantastically strong hand to his right. His second was pretty remarkable as he stayed down the middle of his goal and tipped Hourihane’s effort onto the bar. But the match-winning moment came when he dived low to his right to stop Gibbs‑White’s attempt.
Saving three out of five penalties in a shootout is a fantastic effort. But how did he do it?
VIDEO: Forest vs Sheffield United highlights
Well, after the match, Samba’s special bottle emerged on social media. The ‘keeper could be seen checking his bottle wrapped up in his towel before every penalty.
As we’ve seen on numerous occasions in the past, the ‘keeper had instructions on what to do with each penalty. It’s not too clear on the bottle when we assume the writing says ‘dive right’ or ‘dive left’ for each player. But interestingly, you can clearly see that next to Hourihane’s name it says ‘sta…’ – presumably stand still which is exactly how he saved his effort.
Brice Samba’s bottle for penalty shootout
Samba’s research could be the difference between promotion to the Premier League and another year in the Championship.
It wasn’t just his display during the shootout, though.
Samba earned the Man of the Match award for his display over the 120 minutes as individual highlights of his display emerged.
VIDEO: Brice Samba’s individual highlights vs Sheffield United
Busy night out 🥵 https://t.co/ij6XUouurp— Brice Samba (@samba_brice) May 17, 2022
He later tweeted: “I and we really want to thank all the fans, through the difficulty we did it all together tonight. The strength you gave me. I’ll never forget that. One last step, we have conquered and we will conquer.”