Sinclair fires Swansea into EPL
Swansea clinched promotion to the English Premier League as Scott Sinclair's hat-trick inspired a 4-2 win over Reading in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Monday.
Brendan Rodgers' side will play in the top-flight for the first time in 28 years and can look forward to a £90 million jackpot from increased revenue thanks to a sensational first-half display.
Sinclair scored twice in the space of 60 seconds midway through the half with a penalty and then a cool close-range finish. The former Chelsea winger's 25th and 26th goals of the season were followed by a Stephen Dobbie strike just before the break.
Reading almost staged a dramatic second half revival as they reduced the deficit through Joe Allen's own goal and a Matt Mills header. Brian McDermott's team were unlucky not to equalise when Jem Karacan's shot hit a post, but Swansea sealed the victory when England Under-21 international Sinclair stroked home another penalty in the closing minutes.
Now south Wales can look forward to a rare chance to see the country's elite as Swansea take on famous names like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. It is a remarkable rise. Just eight years ago Swansea needed to beat Hull on the last day of the season to avoid dropping out of the Football League. Fittingly Alan Tate and Leon Britton, who both played in the team that avoided plunging into the Conference, were in the starting eleven at Wembley as Swansea returned to the top-flight for the first time since the John Toshack era.
Promotion at the expense of Reading was also sweet for Rodgers, who was sacked by the Royals in December 2009, just six months after the former Chelsea youth coach had taken charge.
After a scrappy opening, which featured a rejected Reading penalty appeal for handball, it was Swansea who got into their stride. They took the lead in the 21st minute when defender Zurab Khizanishvili brought down Nathan Dyer with a clumsy tackle.
Referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot and Sinclair stepped up to send Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici the wrong way with the penalty. Just 60 seconds later, Sinclair put Swansea into dreamland. Reading's veteran left-back Ian Harte was easily beaten for pace by Dobbie and when the forward crossed low into the area, Federici could only palm the ball towards Sinclair, who calmly slotted home from close-range.
Swansea were cutting Reading to pieces with some fine passing and they had one foot in the Premier League when Dyer's cross was only half-cleared by Khizanishvili to Dobbie, who steered a fine finish past Federici from just inside the area in the 40th minute.
To compound Reading's misery, assistant manager Nigel Gibbs and substitute Jay Tabb was sent off for foul and abusive language towards the officials at the interval. Yet in their darkest hour, Reading somehow managed to summon up the spirit for a brave fightback in the second half.
McDermott's men needed a goal soon after the break to give them a lifeline and it arrived in the 49th minute when Swansea midfielder Allen glanced Noel Hunt's header into his own net. Reading struck another from another corner eight minutes later. Jobi McAnuff was the provider with a deep delivery to Mills, who thumped his header past Dorus De Vries.
Rodgers' side were wobbling and Karacan saw his long-range effort deflected against a post before Garry Monk blocked Hunt's follow-up. Sinclair finally settled Swansea's nerves in the 80th minute when he completed only the second treble in Wembley play-off final history with a penalty after Andy Griffin fouled Fabio Borini.