Aston Villa are back in the Premier League after beating Derby County at Wembley. It concludes their season with a 2-1 play-off final victory.
The fallen giants have stepped up after tasting bitter misery last year. But after swapping places with last years playoff victors, Villa can dream again. Chief Executive Christian Purslow pledged he wanted to make Villa one of the top teams in British football again.
Since getting the better of Frank Lampard twice this season, Dean Smith’s side came into this promotion decider as favourites. Villa proved their worth as they broke the deadlock before a cagey first half drew to an end.
Villa make the early pressure count
Anwar El Ghazi was the goalscorer as he threw himself at Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross from the right channel. As the ball came off the Dutchman’s back, it nestled into Kelle Roos’ right-hand corner, to send the Wembley West End into raptures.
A chorus of Allez, Allez, Allez rang out as Jack Grealish led his side down the tunnel in preparation for round two. Another half and another goal for the Villa.
Man of the Match, John McGinn claimed his seventh goal of the campaign. Derby keeper Roos struggled to deal with El Ghazi’s deflected effort on goal. Looping up into the air, Roos misjudged the trajectory of the ball, allowing for McGinn to nod into an empty net.
Comfortably in control on the hour mark, Villa had to then deal with what changes Lampard would mastermind.
Enter Jack Marriott. Replacing the tired Tom Huddlestone, Marriott partnered Martyn Waghorn at the top of the pitch. Long diagonal balls caused problems for a Villa defence who willingly backed off, allowing Mason Mount time to orchestrate play in front of Jed Steer’s goal.
A familiar move caught the Villa backline out as Waghorn raced in on goal, though Tyrone Mings recovered superbly to deny him the first goal at Wembley. Mings’ efforts, however, were in vain.
With the ball being recycled on the left side, it fell to the feet of Marriott inside the Villa box, and without a second thought, Derby’s semi-final hero found the bottom corner as he finished with aplomb.
Villa return to the Premiership
Despite a traumatic seven minutes of added time, Villa held onto a slender advantage to book their place back in the big league. As captain Grealish raced towards his fans, Nassef Sawiris saw the clubs potential and Dean Smith dedicated promotion his father Ron.
Smith said after the game, “I went to see my old man on Friday and he kept his eyes open for two minutes and I said ‘the next time I come to see you I’ll be a Premier League manager’. And he smiled and nodded, so for me, that’s enough.”
Aston Villa’s 2019/20 Premier League fixture list will be announced June 13th.