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Aston Villa 0-1 Fulham

Fulham celebrate.
Fulham lift the Championship play-off final trophy after beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Wembley

Fulham have been promoted to the Premier League after beating Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Captain Tom Cairney was their goalscorer, finishing neatly underneath Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after latching onto Ryan Sessegnon’s pass midway through the first half.

A fractious game ended with Fulham down to 10 men after centre-back Denis Odoi was sent off for two bookable offences – both for fouls on Jack Grealish.

Aston Villa 0-1 Fulham
Aston Villa 0-1 Fulham

Villa were furious that Ryan Fredericks escaped a card during a first-half tangle with Grealish, the Fulham right-back landing studs first on Grealish’s leg, while the Villa man was later booked for a lunging tackle on Cairney.

Several Villa penalty appeals were also waved away by referee Anthony Taylor, including one in second-half stoppage time when Grealish fell under a challenge from Matt Targett.

The game opened up after the interval, with Villa much more incisive and Grealish looking most likely to find a reply.

However, the midfielder headed over the bar under pressure from Marcus Bettinelli and then saw his mazy run thwarted by a combination of the Fulham goalkeeper and Kevin McDonald.

Odoi’s red card invited further pressure, but Fulham held firm during a late Villa onslaught to clinch a win that is worth an estimated £160m – a figure which financial experts Deloitte say could rise to as much as £280m if the Whites survive for more than one season in the top flight.

Captain Cairney secures promotion

Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney.
Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney celebrate after combining for Fulham’s winning goal

It was perhaps fitting that Sessegnon and Cairney, the two shining lights in an impressive Fulham team this season, combined to score the goal that sent them back to the top flight after a four-year absence.

The pair were two of the three nominees for the EFL’s Championship Player of the Season award, which was won by teenager Sessegnon.

The 18-year-old winger had been largely anonymous early on, but he found space in the centre of the Villa half and picked his pass perfectly to find the onrushing Cairney, who slotted coolly into the net.

Sessegnon could have doubled Fulham’s lead before half-time but his back-post header was directed straight at Johnstone, while he almost set up Stefan Johansen for a second goal midway through the second period.

Fulham back in the big time

Tom Cairney.
Tom Cairney wheels away in delight after putting Fulham ahead midway through the first half

Fulham’s transformation from mid-table underperformers to promotion winners has been one of the feature points of the Championship season.

Defeat at struggling Sunderland on 16 December left them 12th in the table, 18 points behind the top two. Twenty-three unbeaten matches later, they were on the brink of automatic promotion and, had they won their final game at Birmingham, they would have finished second behind champions Wolves.

There was to be no repeat of last season’s play-off disappointment, though. The Whites saw off Derby over two legs in their semi-final before beating Villa at Wembley.

While many have played their part, two January loan additions have been critical to their success. Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has netted 12 goals in 20 appearances and given the team a physical presence up front, while the arrival of Southampton left-back Targett has allowed Sessegnon to push further forward and excel in a more advanced position.

Fulham spent 13 successive seasons in the top flight before their relegation in 2014 and the hope is that the nucleus of this team, helped by the financial backing of owner Shahid Khan, can see them become an established Premier League club again.

Their possession-based style has been as eye-catching as anything on show in the second tier and that brand of football should transfer well to the higher level, although there is very little top-flight experience in Fulham’s ranks and that is likely to be an area that Slavisa Jokanovic will look to address in the next couple of months.

What next for Villa?

John Terry and Jack Grealish.
John Terry consoles Aston Villa team-mate Jack Grealish after the final whistle

Many Villa fans will look back at this season and wonder what might have been.

What if talismanic midfielder Grealish had not sustained a freakish kidney injury that caused him to miss the first three months of the campaign?

What if striker Jonathan Kodjia had not suffered another long-term injury that wrecked his second season with the club?

And what if a possible season-defining 4-1 win over leaders Wolves in March, which left them four points off second place with 10 matches remaining and looked to have kick-started an automatic promotion push, had not been followed by miserable defeats by lowly QPR and Bolton?

Villa have spent heavily in the past two seasons in their bid to return to the top flight, but they will have to cut their cloth accordingly as they prepare for a third successive season in the second tier.

Grealish was their stand-out performer at Wembley. He was outstanding, almost scored one of the best goals ever in a play-off final and did not deserve to be on the losing side.

His consistent form in the second half of the campaign has been a huge positive for Villa and he is sure to be a target for Premier League clubs this summer, so keeping the 22-year-old at Villa Park will be paramount to Bruce’s side mounting another challenge for promotion next season.

Line-ups

Aston Villa

  • 1Johnstone
  • 27El Mohamady
    Substituted forKodjiaat 77′minutes
  • 5ChesterBooked at 8mins
  • 26Terry
  • 21HuttonBooked at 86mins
  • 15JedinakBooked at 76mins
    Substituted forOnomahat 77′minutes
  • 7Snodgrass
  • 14Hourihane
    Substituted forHoganat 82′minutes
  • 10GrealishBooked at 63mins
  • 37Adomah
  • 45Grabban

Substitutes

  • 6Whelan
  • 9Hogan
  • 16Bree
  • 18Onomah
  • 20Bjarnason
  • 22Kodjia
  • 31Bunn

Fulham

  • 1Bettinelli
  • 2Fredericks
    Substituted forChristieat 83′minutes
  • 4OdoiBooked at 70mins
  • 13Ream
  • 21Targett
  • 10Cairney
  • 6McDonald
  • 8Johansen
    Substituted forNorwoodat 72′minutes
  • 47KamaraBooked at 77mins
    Substituted forKalasat 77′minutes
  • 32Mitrovic
  • 3R Sessegnon

Substitutes

  • 9Fonte
  • 11Ayité
  • 16Norwood
  • 20Piazon
  • 22Christie
  • 26Kalas
  • 27Button
Referee:
Anthony Taylor
Attendance:
85,243

Match Stats

Home TeamAston VillaAway TeamFulham
Possession
Home49%
Away51%
Shots
Home12
Away15
Shots on Target
Home2
Away3
Corners
Home0
Away3
Fouls
Home14
Away15

Live Text

Posted at

Match ends, Aston Villa 0, Fulham 1.

Full Time

Posted at90’+6′

Second Half ends, Aston Villa 0, Fulham 1.

Posted at90’+5′

Foul by Oliver Norwood (Fulham).

Posted at90’+5′

Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at90’+4′

Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Posted at90’+4′

Foul by Robert Snodgrass (Aston Villa).

Posted at90’+1′

Attempt missed. Scott Hogan (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Albert Adomah with a cross.

Posted at90′

Matt Targett (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Posted at90′

Foul by Josh Onomah (Aston Villa).

Posted at89′

Attempt missed. Robert Snodgrass (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right from a direct free kick.

Posted at88′

Foul by Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham).

Posted at88′

Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Booking

Posted at86′

Alan Hutton (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Posted at86′

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Posted at86′

Foul by Alan Hutton (Aston Villa).

Posted at85′

Offside, Aston Villa. Robert Snodgrass tries a through ball, but Scott Hogan is caught offside.

Posted at84′

Attempt blocked. Josh Onomah (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jack Grealish.

Substitution

Posted at83′

Substitution, Fulham. Cyrus Christie replaces Ryan Fredericks.

Posted at82′

Foul by Oliver Norwood (Fulham).

Posted at82′

Robert Snodgrass (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at82′

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution

Posted at82′

Substitution, Aston Villa. Scott Hogan replaces Conor Hourihane because of an injury.

Posted at80′

Delay in match Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa) because of an injury.

Posted at78′

Foul by Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham).

Posted at78′

John Terry (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution

Posted at77′

Substitution, Aston Villa. Josh Onomah replaces Mile Jedinak.

Substitution

Posted at77′

Substitution, Aston Villa. Jonathan Kodjia replaces Ahmed El Mohamady.

Substitution

Posted at77′

Substitution, Fulham. Tomas Kalas replaces Aboubakar Kamara.

Booking

Posted at77′

Aboubakar Kamara (Fulham) is shown the yellow card.

Booking

Posted at76′

Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Posted at76′

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at76′

Foul by Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa).

Posted at74′

Corner, Fulham. Conceded by James Chester.

Posted at74′

Attempt blocked. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ryan Fredericks with a cross.

Posted at72′

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution

Posted at72′

Substitution, Fulham. Oliver Norwood replaces Stefan Johansen because of an injury.

Posted at71′

Delay in match Stefan Johansen (Fulham) because of an injury.

Dismissal

Posted at70′

Second yellow card to Denis Odoi (Fulham) for a bad foul.

Posted at70′

Foul by Denis Odoi (Fulham).

Posted at70′

Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.


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