Aston Villa earn Premier League promotion after narrow victory against Derby


Aston Villa secured their return to the Premier League with a 2-1 victory against Derby County in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium.

Looking to bounce back from a three-year absence from the top flight, Dean Smith’s side largely controlled proceedings at the national stadium and raced into a two-goal lead in style after goals from Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn.

Both sides’ early nervousness resulted in a first half of lacking quality; however, it was Villa who posed the greater threat. On 44 minutes the breakthrough was finally made when El Ghazi nodded Villa into the lead following Ahmed Elmohamedy’s inch-perfect delivery.

And it was Dean Smith’s side that once again took control after the restart, and they were duly rewarded with a second, potentially lethal, goal following Kelle Roos’ hesitation inside the six-yard box. McGinn pounced on the loose ball, thrusting the dream of top-flight glory further away from Frank Lampard’s ranks.

But a glimmer of hope was provided late on for Derby in the form of Marriott, who coolly diverted the ball beyond the rooted Jed Steer to halve the deficit. And despite a heroic last push, the Rams would suffer a cruel defeat, whilst their Midlands opponents can now begin planning for life back in the top flight.

With a spot in the Premier League and an estimated £170 million also up for grabs, the contest between both sides under the Wembley arch was typically frantic. And in the midst of a hesitant air, and the crackling expectation from a packed stadium, it was Aston Villa who started the brighter.

A devilish corner kick delivered by captain Jack Grealish forced a scramble inside the Derby penalty area. With the Rams unable to clear their lines, the ball fell kindly to Axel Tuanzebe, who could only swipe the air and ultimately failed to make contact with his effort.

But Frank Lampard’s side continued to endure an onslaught from their opponents, and the first gilt-edged chance of the contest was soon carved out on seven minutes.

It was a problem of Derby’s own making, after goalkeeper Roos’ poor clearance was swept up in the centre of the field by John McGinn. The midfielder then picked out the run of Grealish, who raced towards the edge of the box and blazed wide.

An electric sprint from El Ghazi then split open the Derby backline once again, although Richard Keogh hurtled across to make an inch-perfect tackle.

McGinn continued to prove a thorn in the Rams’ increasingly nervy back four soon after, but could only lash well wide of goal after Elmohamedy’s powerful centre deflected to the edge of the box.

But after the initial dominance from Villa, Derby soon established a much needed foothold in the encounter.

On 27 minutes, a counter from the Rams, spearheaded by winger turned full-back Omar Bogle, resulted in a free-kick awarded on the far touchline. However, Harry Wilson, usually so reliable over dead ball situations, could only bend the set piece comfortably wide of the far post.

Villa then came inches away from opening the scoring. Tammy Abraham was afforded space to turn after receiving the ball 20 yards from goal, and the Chelsea loanee let loose an effort that looped agonisingly wide of the top-right corner.

It wasn’t until the 37th minute that the first shot on target was recorded. Mason Mount fired in a crisp effort from distance, but shot stopper Jed Steer was on hand to collect with ease.

But Villa soon capitalised on their offensive potency and opened the scoring just when it appeared both sides would enter the interval goalless.

Conor Hourihane whipped a ball into the feet of Albert Adomah, who in turn picked out the run of Elmohamedy on the right flank. The Egyptian’s cross was unerring, and El Ghazi slipped away from the attention of Bogle to divert the ball beyond Roos and into the bottom-left corner.

Both sides emerged from the interval with renewed force, with a caution quickly brandished to either side. First, Mason Bennett was shown a yellow card for a cynical foul on Abraham, before Hourihane soon joined the striker in referee Paul Tierney’s book after catching Wilson with a late challenge.

The relentless pace continued on 51 minutes, with Roos rapidly closed down inside his penalty area. With the shot-stopper quickly pressurised, the Dutchman hurriedly hacked the ball into the crowd, once again allowing Villa to take the initiative.

And the shot stopper’s evident nerves soon resulted in Villa doubling their lead. El Ghazi’s powerful drive from distance clipped off Keogh’s challenge, and looped dangerously towards the penalty spot. As the ball dropped out of the sky, Roos’ attempts to collect were ill-fated and allowed McGinn to ghost beneath him and bundle home Villa’s second.

Boss Lampard soon introduced semi-final hero Marriott, who had so emphatically thundered Derby to Wembley, in an attempt to turn the crushing tides. Martyn Waghorn then replaced the superbly marshalled Mason Bennett, and the attacking changes almost paid dividends on 71 minutes, although Bogle could only lash into the side netting from a tight angle.

The diminutive attacker soon began to pose problems, and just moments later he played a crucial role in Derby halving the deficit. Following a superb interception from Tyrone Mings, the ball span out to the far side for substitute Florian Jozefzoon to fire a cross back into a crowded penalty area. The delivery was met by the head of Bogle, who deftly flicked into the path of Marriott. His resultant shot then clipped the foot of Waghorn and nestled into the bottom corner.

With seven minutes additional time brandished, much to the ire of the Villa faithful, Derby hurtled forwards in waves in search of an equaliser. But Lampard’s side eventually fell agonisingly short at the final whistle, whilst Villa have escaped from one of the most competitive division’s imaginable.

Aston Villa: Steer, Elmohamady, Tuanzebe, Mings (Hause, 87), Taylor, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, Adomah (Green, 72), El Ghazi, Abraham

Unused substitutes: Kalinic, Jedinak, Whelan, Lansbury, Kodjia

Derby County: Roos, Bogle, Keogh, Tomori, Cole, Huddlestone (Marriott, 61), Johnson, Wilson, Mount, Lawrence (Jozefzoon, 72), Bennett (Waghorn, 68)

Unused substitutes: Carson, MacDonald, Evans, Knight

Attendance: 85, 026


About Author

Comments are closed.