Image credits: Ian Wilson from London, England [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Aston Villa will spend next season competing in the Premier League after beating Derby 2-1 in the EFL Championship play-off final.
Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn scored either side of the interval to give Villa a two goal lead before Jack Marriott equalised for the Rams late on. However the occasion proved to be jubilant for Dean Smith’s men and despair awaited Frank Lampard’s Derby side, who succumbed to another heartbreaking trip to Wembley.
Smith made just one change from Villa’s semi-final victory over West Brom, as Albert Adomah replaced Andre Green on the wing. Meanwhile Derby made two enforced changes as Ashley Cole replaced the suspended Scott Malone and Duane Holmes’ injury paved the way for Tom Huddlestone to start in the centre of midfield.
Villa were able to make the breakthrough on the 44thminute mark following a stage of control. Ahmed Elmohamady’s wonderful cross was met brilliantly by El Ghazi, who managed to get ahead of Jayden Bogle and nod the ball into the corner of the net passed a helpless Kelle Roos- allowing Smith’s side to walk down the tunnel at the interval a goal to the good.
The Claret and Blues continued the second period not just ahead but well on top approaching the climax of the half; and they were soon to be rewarded following a goalkeeping error from Roos.
El Ghazi was once again involved as he cut inside of Bogle on Derby’s right before seeing his eventual strike deflect high into the air. Roos came out to gather the ball, only for McGinn to nip in front of the Derby gloveman and direct the ball into an empty net, all but leaving Lampard’s side with a steep mountain to climb.
Derby managed a late consolation goal as Bogle’s knock down from Florian Jozefzoon’s cross was met by a stern strike from Marriott, that Jed Steer could only watch nestle into the bottom left hand corner of the net.
However Marriott’s heroics against Leeds in the semi-finals couldn’t be repeated as Villa were able to see the game through, returning back to the summit of English football in the process.
Speaking with Sky Sports post match, Dean Smith labeled his players as a “terrific bunch of lads”.
“From the day I went in there working with them everyday. They take on different ideas, they’re sponges.”
For Frank Lampard and Derby, however, it marks a sour end to a bittersweet season as the Rams have it all to do again in the 2019/20 season; and with the Premier League so near yet so far from their grasps it will no doubt he a bitter pill to swallow.