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SportHow a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998

14:35  25 may  2019
14:35  25 may  2019 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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AMITAI WINEHOUSE: A Charlton - Sunderland play - off final has special meaning. Over two decades on from 1998 How a 10 p coin decided the shootout , a brilliant hat - trick and one of the greatest finals of all time ahead of Charlton and Sunderland ' s League One play - off final , the story

How a 10 p coin decided the shootout , a brilliant hat - trick 'The time I decided to leave was when a big club like Sunderland came knocking. I just felt it was too good an Charlton ' s Iniesta Jonny Williams can pass final test How a 10 p coin decided the shootout , a brilliant hat - trick

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Getty (Photo by Adam Davy/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

When Tommy Rowe's penalty flew past the post at the Valley and all eyes turned to Wembley, memories immediately came flooding back.

A Charlton-Sunderland play-off final has special meaning. Over two decades on from 1998, there has probably never been a finer clash at the national stadium than the one those two sides put together since.

It was an incredible game, one that swung this way and that, featured a late dramatic equaliser, a brilliant hat-trick and finished 4-4 after extra-time.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlton and Sunderland meet in League One play-off final 21 years after last clash at Wembley

Then came the penalty shoot-out, Sasa Ilic's save and Michael Gray's tears and Charlton had secured a place in the Premier League just six years after being homeless.

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How a 10 p coin decided the shootout , a brilliant hat - trick Sunderland are set to have Aiden McGeady available again after he missed the play - off semi- finals against Portsmouth due to a foot injury and Power believes that tight win restored confidence after a poor end to the league campaign.

Clive Mendonca, born in Sunderland and a Black Cats fan, produced arguably the greatest Play - Off Final performance ever seen in the most dramatic His hat - trick game just three minutes from time to equalise at 3-3, before Bill Perry won it in stoppage time . Mortensen is still the only player to score a

But just how did that incredible day on May 25 pan out for those involved and what were they feeling throughout that afternoon?

Sportsmail has spoken to Ilic — the man who saved the last penalty — and John Robinson — who started on the bench but had a key role to play in the comeback — and sought out their memories ahead of this weekend's League One play-off final.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Sportsmail has spoken to some of the men involved on the day to look back at the game

In the run-up to the final, Charlton had gone an incredible 10 games without conceding a single goal. They went into the game on the back of two 1-0 wins in their play-off semi-final against Ipswich.

Sasa Ilic: Having the run of games leading up to the final, not conceding a goal, you get used to winning games and not conceding goals. You’re fairly confident. The good thing was we weren’t the favourites. The pressure wasn’t on us.

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John Robinson: The day was a great experience for everybody, just to be involved, to realise where Charlton had come from. To be a part of that from 1992 when we went back to the Valley was amazing. I was Alan Curbishley’s first signing. I was disappointed not to be in the starting XI. I’d played 90 per cent of the games but got injured. Having raced against time to get back fit, to be part of the 14 was great.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited It was an incredible game that included a hat-trick, extra-time and a penalty shootout

Ilic: If we had lost the game I don't think many people would have said many negative things about us, but if we won it would have been so much sweeter. We came in with huge amounts of confidence. We were definitely in the better position leading up to the game.

Robinson: It was a great experience walking out. You always hoped one day to do that. Just following the people who have walked through that tunnel — I dreamt of that as a kid when I went to watch Brighton in an FA Cup final.

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How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited John Robinson started the game on the bench but would have a key role on the day

It took a while for the game to spark to life, but then Clive Mendonca scored the first of his goals that afternoon. Charlton led but Sunderland pegged them back shortly after half-time through Niall Quinn. Kevin Phillips then put the Black Cats ahead in the 58th minute. Mendonca scored again in the 71st minute to level the game.

The previous five play-off finals had finished 1-0. With a quarter of the game to go, the ball had already hit the back of the net four times.

Ilic: Luckily for us, as much as they were scoring we were scoring back too. We did do well coming back from chasing the game. It felt as though it was meant to happen. I don’t think Steven Spielberg would have invented anything more interesting than that game. Everything happened for a reason and luckily it went for us.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Clive Mendonca scored three on the day

Robinson: I was desperate to get on. Curbs was making a few changes, the right changes as well, and you’re hoping to come on. Once it was 2-1, you thought there were goals in it because it had clearly opened up.

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Ilic: When you are caught up and playing, you don’t have time to think about things. I wasn’t able to keep the goals away. You’re watching everyone scoring and you’re not really thinking, you are just hoping that you will score a goal soon. You don’t have time to think about how the game is going. That’s the difference for supporters — they have time to think about how the game could evolve, while we’re just on the pitch trying to do our best.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Sunderland pegged Charlton back and levelled shortly after half-time through Niall Quinn

Sunderland soon took the lead again, with Quinn scoring his second of the day in the 73rd minute. Curbishley turned to his bench and threw on Robinson, a decision that would have huge consequences.

It was his corner that Richard Rufus would meet in the last five minutes to level the game again, heading home his first ever senior goal in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Robinson: I had 20 minutes when I went on. Curbs said, “Do what you do. Try and bring energy, get some corners and get it in the box.” With five minutes to go, I wasn’t meant to be taking the corner but we were rushing and it was on my side. I just wanted to make sure it went into the box. We knew the goalkeeper would come for certain things because he was that extravagant.

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How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Young Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips then put the Black Cats ahead in the 58th minute

Ilic: It was a relief when Richard scored. The whole team was shocked to be conceding goals. We thought we would score a lot, though. Watching the semi-final game against Doncaster made me realise how our supporters must have been feeling 21 years ago in a big game like that.

Robinson: It was frightening to send that corner in! Everyone has a part to play. It was great because we were back in it. We didn’t know if we’d have another corner when I went to cross it. All I was pleased with was that I kept the ball in play! I got it quite close to the line to try and drag the goalkeeper out a bit, which it did. Rufus leapt like a salmon. Where he got that height from I don’t know. His first ever goal, what a decent time to score.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlton fell behind but a Robinson corner in the 85th minute was met by Richard Rufus

Not that the game had taken its last breath yet. Nicky Summerbee scored just after half-time in extra-time for Sunderland. There was only one man to get Charlton back into it — Mendonca.

The striker was on fire and saved his best for last. A cross came in. He controlled it with his right boot and then volleyed it beyond Lionel Perez in the Sunderland goal.

Robinson: You always felt you’d get another chance. If it fell to Clive, the way he was playing, you knew he’d score. It was whether you could create that opportunity. If we get this other chance, and it goes to Clive, we’re going to score. He was on absolute fire.

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How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited It was Rufus' first ever goal at senior level and meant the match went into extra-time

Ilic: Luckily we came through it. We had Super Clive Mendonca scoring goals at the other end.

Robinson: When Jonesy (Keith Jones) started down the line, he whips the ball in, how Clive controls that, turns and swivels and gets it into the net, wow. It was ridiculous!

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mendonca scored a brilliant goal in extra-time to level the game again and send it to penalties

And so the game went to penalties. They would fly in one by one, no one slipping for the first five for each team. Ilic was between the sticks for Charlton, Robinson knew he would not be needed unless it went to sudden death.

Ilic: I remember all the lads coming up to me before I went off towards the goals for the shootout. All of them were saying, ‘It’s up to you now Sasa’. I was thinking, ‘Thanks for the extra pressure!’. When I got to the goals I realised at least I didn’t have to walk from the halfway line to the spot - god knows what goes through their minds before they kick the ball. If we save it, great, if we don’t, it wasn’t meant to be anyway. Goalkeepers are a win-win situation anyway.

Robinson: When you have 10 penalties to go, you think there’s no way it’s going to sudden death. You think surely it will have to get to somebody first. When they started to go in, it was like “these are pretty good for everybody”. You think, “I could be first up for sudden death”. Any penalty is hard, but when you know if you miss and the other scores it is done, it’s crazy. When it got to the fourth, I spoke to Mark Bowen: “Just pick the spot, and don’t change your mind”.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Lionel Perez of Sunderland failed to get his hand to this penalty — the first 12 all went in

Then it fell to Robinson to score and put Charlton ahead in the shootout with the first sudden death penalty.

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Robinson: I had never scored a penalty in my life. I missed one at 14, I missed one for Charlton when I was on a hat-trick and Curbs went mad. As I started to walk out of that centre circle, my legs just went. Absolutely went, like jelly. I thought I had to jog. I didn’t want to look at the supporters. I didn’t want to look at the goalkeeper, because I knew he was going to fill that goal up. I put my head down, turned round, faced the Charlton supporters the other way, turned round and put it to the left.  The relief when that went in - I’ve never felt such relief in the world before. It was crazy. "It ain’t on me!”. That was the last penalty I took.

Quinn kept Sunderland in the game with his penalty past Ilic before Shaun Newton hit Charlton's seventh straight successful penalty. Next came Michael Gray.

Ilic : I did find a 10p coin on the pitch two or three penalty kicks before Michael Gray went up for his and flipped the coin to decide what to do. They were scoring goals for fun and I saw the coin and thought I might as well pick that and use it to decide which way to dive. Luckily for me, that penalty kick Michael Gray took was in the direction I was supposed to dive at.

Robinson: He was the first left-footer, I think. The run-up wasn’t confident. I don’t even know if we were really looking.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Luckily for him, he went the right way and managed to stop the ball going into the net

Michael Gray (speaking to the Telegraph in 2014): I really didn’t want to take one, it was something I just didn’t want to do. I was a Sunderland boy, living the dream playing for my local team, and I just didn’t want to be the person responsible for us losing such an important match. I think I was the oldest person left who hadn’t stepped up yet, so I decided I’d better have a go. I saw Ilic diving the way I was going to kick the ball and I just thought: "Oh God no, he’s going to save it".

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The players who had missed out on a place in the 14-man squad even ran onto the pitch

Ilic: It was amazing. As soon as Michael took that, before it even reached my hands I had a huge grin on my face, I knew I was going to save it. All these emotions were stirred up. I could have run a marathon, that’s how excited I was. The adrenaline was pumping. I was running towards my team-mates and they were running towards me. There was then this huge wave of bodies as my team-mates decided to jump on me.

Robinson: Once we heard the roar we were off and running. There was no other experience like it. Everybody, apart from Mark Bright, who went to console Michael Gray, were piling on Sasa and those in the suits came flying over. No one could take away what we achieved.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlton's players immediately piled on top of Ilic after his save won them the shootout

The game was won. Ilic, Robinson and their team-mates went back to the Wembley Hilton to process what had just happened.

Ilic: It was a dream come true for me. It was more emphasised by the fact that 12 months prior to that game I was playing non-league football, studying, dreaming about that. A year later I’m at Wembley, saving the crucial penalty that took Charlton to the Premier League. A lot of players may have played a lot more football than I did but it’s games like that that stick in people’s minds. For me, that is more important than anything else.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Gray admitted: 'I really didn’t want to take one, it was something I just didn’t want to do'

Robinson: We didn’t play for the finances. It was about what you achieved when you looked back. That can never be taken away from you. The energy was drained from you over that two and a half hours, being out there, the emotions, up and down, the whole thing. We went to the hotel. No one went anywhere. Mark Salmon (the backup goalkeeer) played the piano, we sat around until six or seven in the morning. It wasn’t drinking much, it was just reminiscing.

Ilic: We were all mentally drained. We sat around but I left quite early. My family were over from Serbia and Belgrade. Even so, I went to bed quite early. There wasn’t enough energy to celebrate and go crazy.

How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlton's players celebrate with the trophy after the game, having secured promotion

Robinson: It was a great evening though, everyone was there - all the staff. It wasn’t just about the players, it was about the whole entire club. Everyone, from the coaching staff to the kit lady was back at the hotel to celebrate.

Ilic: When Charlton won that dramatic shoot-out against Doncaster, within two minutes I jumped on the internet and bought my ticket for a plane. I gave the club a call, said I'm coming and asked if they could help me out with a couple of tickets. I'll definitely be there at Wembley cheering on the lads.

For Ilic and those Charlton fans gathered at one end, they will hope that Sunday will be less dramatic. For a neutral, a repeat would not go amiss.

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How a 10p coin decided the shootout, a brilliant hat-trick and one of the greatest finals of all time... ahead of Charlton and Sunderland's League One play-off final, the story behind the clash between both sides back in 1998

Rangers leading race for Saints target Aribo.
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