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Featured Image Credit: PA Images & Twitter/Isaac Jennings
Brice Samba was the hero for Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night as they beat Sheffield United on penalties to reach the Championship play-off final.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg at Bramall Lane, Forest looked to be cruising to Wembley when Brennan Johnson put the home side ahead in the reverse fixture at the City Ground.
But a goal shortly after half-time from Morgan Gibbs-White made it 3-2 on aggregate before John Fleck levelled the tie with 15 minutes remaining in normal time.
Neither team would find a winner in extra-time, with the match heading to penalties.
Forest goalkeeper Samba proved to be the hero in the shootout, saving penalties from Ollie Norwood, Conor Hourihane and Gibbs-White to seal a dramatic victory for the home side.
He first denied Norwood with a diving save to his right before remarkably staying in the middle of his goal to tip Hourihane's penalty onto the bar.
Samba then kept out Gibbs-White with another excellent save to his right to send his side to Wembley, sparking a huge pitch invasion at the City Ground.
Throughout the shootout, Samba could be seen checking a water bottle that was wrapped up in his towel.
It was hidden in a towel until I got to the post 👀🙈😅 https://t.co/qHk5VGweRP— Brice Samba (@samba_brice) May 17, 2022
After the match, an image of the bottle circulated on social media which showed it had a note taped to it with clear instructions of where to dive for each penalty.
Interestingly, for Hourihane the letters 'Sta..' can be seen – possibly meaning to 'stay' or 'stand still' in the middle of the goal.
Responding to the image on Twitter, Samba wrote: "Give it back" following by several crying-laughing emojis. He later added: "It was hidden in a towel until I got to the post."
Speaking after the match, Forest manager Steve Cooper praised Samba for perfectly executing their penalty shootout plan.
"Brice deserves the headlines. Amazing," said Cooper.
"He was ready. We were ready. He's delivered the plan perfectly.
"He deserves all the accolades he's going to get, and he'll certainly get them from the rest of the team. But he'll be the first one to say it's about the team as well.
"They were great saves. Brilliant. Let's not lose sight of his saves during the game, too. They were great saves.
"It's his job, don't get me wrong. But he had a particularly good night.
"We had a plan for everything. I don't want to speak about it too much, because we've got another game to go. But we were ready."
Forest will now face Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final on May 29.