Luton gains promotion to Premier League after beating Coventry in penalty shootout
LONDON (AP) — Luton will play in the Premier League for the first time next season after beating Coventry following a penalty shootout in the Championship playoff final at Wembley on Saturday.
Coventry's Fankaty Dabo sent his spot kick high and wide to give Luton a 6-5 win in the shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time in what is usually dubbed the most lucrative match in world soccer. The winner is expected to get in excess of $200 million in future earnings for gaining promotion to the Premier League, the richest league in world soccer.
It marks Luton's first return to England's top division since 1991-92 — the year before it was rebranded as the Premier League.
Coventry was trying to return for the first time since being relegated in 2001 following a 34-year stint in the first division.
Luton had a scary start to the game as captain Tom Lockyer fell to the ground untouched and then remained down for several minutes while he received medical attention. Lockyer was carried off on a stretcher and taken to a hospital for further medical checks, with Luton saying he was conscious and responsive.
Despite that setback, Luton largely dominated the first half and took the lead in the 23rd minute through Jordan Clark, who received a cutback from Elijah Adebayo and took one touch to go past a defender and rifle home a left-foot shot high into the net.
Luton also had two goals disallowed before the break, but Coventry was much improved in the second half and got back into the game in the 66th.
Viktor Gyokeres ran down the left flank and teed up Gustavo Hamer, who slotted in a low shot from the edge of the area to send the sky-blue half of Wembley into a frenzy.
Luton substitute Joe Taylor thought he had scored the winner 25 minutes into extra time but it was ruled out by VAR as he handled the ball after robbing defender Jonathan Panzo of possession.
In the shootout, the first 11 penalty takers all scored their spot kicks before Dabo sent his off target.
The Luton players then held up Lockyer's No. 4 shirt during the celebrations.
“He's been brilliant for us all season," said Reece Burke, who replaced Lockyer in the 12th minute. "When I went on, the gaffer said 'make sure you do it for him.'”
Luton finished third in the Championship’s regular season behind champion Burnley and Sheffield United, which both earned automatic promotion.
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