Brice Samba pulled off three saves in Nottingham Forest’s shootout win over Sheffield United to move the Reds to within one game of returning to the Premier League
Image: Andrew Yates / Sportimage)
Brice Samba was the undoubted hero in Nottingham Forest’s Championship play-off win over Sheffield United.
The Congolese goalkeeper denied three Blades players in a tense penalty shootout at the City Ground to ensure Forest moved to within one game of a long-awaited Premier League return.
They will now face-off against Huddersfield Town at Wembley on Sunday, May 29 in football’s richest game with the winners guaranteed a place at the top table of English football next term. Samba dazzled as he kept out Oli Norwood, Conor Hourihane and Morgan Gibbs-White with Forest winning 3-2 on spot-kicks after a pulsating tie finished 3-3 on aggregate after extra-time.
The meticulous preparation Samba undertook to inspire his side to victory has now come to light. An image on social media has gone viral showing the instructions written on his water bottle directing him on which way to dive for a clutch of United players.
Writing on Twitter, Samba put: “It was hidden in a towel until I got to the post!”
The bottle listed eight opposition players and which way Samba was instructed to dive. Thankfully for the 28-year-old, it proved pivotal as he played a starring role to help Forest go within touching distance of a first top flight tilt in 23 years.
Speaking to Sky Sports post-match, Samba said of his heroics: “I definitely enjoyed that because we worked hard. I’m happy to help the team go to Wembley.
“It’s just a feeling (his saves). I can’t say everything about them because we have one more game to play. For Hourihane’s penalty I had a feeling he’d go down the middle so I just stayed there. It was good for me. I’m so happy tonight. We have one more step at Wembley and have to focus on that last game now.”
Forest centre-half Steve Cook also praised Samba’s display, saying: “Brice was unbelievable. The save he made in the first half, the save he made in the 118th minute or whatever it was – he was absolutely outstanding. To have a goalkeeper like that behind you (is huge).”
Action Images via Reuters/Molly Darlington)
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Forest can now look forward to a first-ever trip to the new Wembley – and a first visit to the national stadium at all since 1992. Boss Steve Cooper said: “We are hopefully going to give so many people a day to remember. I can’t sum it up at the moment, the reality is that we have another step to go.
“To get through two legs of a semi-final play-off you have to do a bit of everything, you have to play well, have to suffer, have to have a bit of luck and dig in – all of the things you have to do to be a real team we have done. Brice was brilliant today, I’m not one for singling people out but it’s difficult not to talk about how good he was in terms of the penalties, the saves, the distribution and the calmness. He is a big part of what we do on and off the pitch. It’s brilliant he got his moment.”