Aston Villa made it all the way to the playoff final last season under former manager Steve Bruce, only to fall at the final hurdle by losing to Fulham. This time they were back with a vengeance, and nothing and nobody was going to stand in their way.
As they looked to finally make their return to the Premier League after three seasons away.
Villa, under the guidance of new manager and Villain himself Dean Smith, had Frank Lampard’s Derby County to get past if they were to make it back to the top flight, and after a drab first half seemed all but over, Anwar El Ghazi popper up to give Villa the lead on 44 minutes, allowing them to go into the break in front.
Second Half Action
After the break, Villa assumed control of the tie as they looked to grab another goal to cement their lead. They didn’t have to wait long as 10 minutes after the restart, Derby keeper Kelle Roos completely misjudged the flight the ball following a deflection on a El Ghazi shot, and this saw John McGinn beat the Dutchman to the ball to put Villa two up.
Derby Sparked Back Into Life
You could say that this was the spark Derby County needed, as they looked to come into life and grow into the game from that moment. Lampard, who had been criticised by some for leaving out playoff semi final hero Jack Marriott, as well as Martyn Waghorn, had thrown both strikers on by the 69th minute, and this saw Derby begin to ask a lot more of Villa as the game headed towards its close.
The 81st minute saw Derby pull a goal back to set up a frantic finish. Marriott managed to find space to get a shot off, which took a slight deflection off Waghorn, to beat Jed Steer in the Villa goal. Dean Smith’s side managed to hold firm though, navigating their way through 7 minutes of injury time to secure the 2-1 victory at Wembley, and their place in the Premier League for the 19/20 season.
Speaking following the win, Dean Smith, a boyhood Villa fan, said, “It feels right we are a Premier League club because of the history and the fan base that we have. The club has gone through some hard years and losing here in last season’s final was tough.”
Back Where They Belong
It’s been a remarkable turnaround at Villa of late, as Smith managed to guide the Villains to 10 straight victories between March the 2nd and April the 22nd. He also installed Jack Grealish, another boyhood Villa fan, as captain, and it proved to be a masterstroke. Many would suggest that the Premier League will be better off with a club as big as Villa involved next season, and rightly so.
For Derby, they could be heading for a summer of upheaval, with players out of contract, loan stars set to return to their parent clubs, and question marks over whether Frank Lampard will stay, with rumours of him heading to Chelsea persisting. Whatever happens, they enjoyed a good season, and you would expect them to be challenging for the top six again next term.