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Aston Villa beat Derby County to secure Premier League return
Aston Villa beat Derby County to secure Premier League return

Aston Villa beat Derby County to secure Premier League return

Written by Gideon Sarpong
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Aston Villa held off a late fightback from Derby County to win promotion back to the Premier League with victory in the Championship play-off final.

Villa, beaten by Fulham in last season's final, seemed to be cruising to victory when John McGinn added to Anwar El Ghazi's first-half strike to put them 2-0 up with 30 minutes to go.

However, Rams boss Frank Lampard threw caution to the wind and his side set up a frantic finale when substitute Jack Marriott's effort from eight yards took a deflection off Martyn Waghorn on its way in.

Despite seven minute of injury time they could not force an equaliser and now face another season in the second tier, while Villa return to the Premier League for the first time since relegation in 2016.

Promotion at Wembley caps off a remarkable three months for Villa who had looked out of the promotion race before a club-record 10-match winning run saw them finish fifth.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the value of the game, estimated to be a minimum of £170m, the first half was a cagey affair.

 

Rams midfielder Mason Mount was the first player to register a shot on target when he fired straight at Villa keeper Jed Steer from 20 yards late in the half.

With the game drifting towards the break goalless, Dean Smith's side launched a quick attack that El Ghazi finished off by coming in on the blindside of the static Jayden Bogle and diverting it into the net with his back.

They doubled their advantage when Rams goalkeeper Kelle Roos misjudged the flight of a deflected El Ghazi shot and McGinn beat him to it to head into an empty net.

That sparked Derby into life and they grew into the game before the combination of forwards Marriott and Waghorn got them back in it.

But it was not enough though and they now face a 12th successive season in the Championship.

Fine end to turbulent season

Victory at the national stadium brings a successful end to what has been at times tumultuous year for Villa.

Days after defeat by Fulham in last season's Championship showpiece it was revealed the club had missed a deadline to pay HM Revenue & Customs £4m and it seemed likely that star player Jack Grealish would have to be sold.

With administration a serious concern, Chinese owner Tony Xia eventually sold the club to billionaire businessmen Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris in July.

They decided to stick with boss Steve Bruce until October, but after an indifferent start to the season sacked the 58-year-old after a 3-3 draw with Preston, which had seen an irate fan throw a cabbage at him.

Bruce was replaced in the dug-out by Brentford manager and Villa fan Smith, with former Chelsea and Villa defender John Terry as assistant, and results initially improved.

However, following an injury to midfielder Grealish at the start of December the team went on a torrid run of form and by the end of February they were eight points off the play-offs, having played two games more than some teams around them.

Grealish returned to the side and was made captain for the home game against Derby on 1 March. The 23-year-old scored the fourth goal in a 4-0 win over the Rams which sparked a run of 10 successive victories and Villa qualified for the play-offs with two games to spare.

They squeezed past local rivals West Brom on penalties to set up a meeting with Derby, who they had beaten by an aggregate of 7-0 in their two league meetings this season.

This game threatened to go the way of the past two games between the sides when the superb McGinn bundled in with Roos flapping.

It proved to be a much closer finish but Villa managed to hang on to claim promotion back to the top flight.

Source: BBC