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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Championship play-offs: Aston Villa to take on Fulham in final for chance to return to Premier League

  • Villa reach Wembley showpiece on May 26 following tense 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough
  • Second-half goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Denis Odoi send Fulham through at Derby's expense
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John Terry celebrates at the full-time whistle as a 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough sent Aston Villa through to the Championship play-offs final against Fulham on May 26. Clive Mason / Getty Images
John Terry celebrates at the full-time whistle as a 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough sent Aston Villa through to the Championship play-offs final against Fulham on May 26. Clive Mason / Getty Images

Aston Villa sealed their place in the Championship play-off final after holding Middlesbrough at bay in a tense 0-0 draw at Villa Park on Tuesday that sent the Midlands club through 1-0 on aggregate.

Steve Bruce's side will face Fulham in the final on May 26 at Wembley as they look to return to the Premier League from which they were relegated in 2016.

Having won the semi-final first leg 1-0 courtesy of a Mile Jedinak strike, Villa showed some organised defending to hold off Boro who were looking for an immediate return to the top-flight.

At the heart of that defence was former Chelsea and England centre-back John Terry who joined the club last year on a free transfer and whose appointment as captain appears to have had a significant impact.

"Two very good performances away and at home tonight. The boys are different class. I think it was important in the first half that we did not concede. Another clean sheet and a great night," Terry said.

"It was intense. I think our game plan worked very well so the manager deserves a lot credit for that. But the boys have been superb and we're off to Wembley with one more to go."

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The match began with a minute's applause for former Villa defender Jlloyd Samuel who died earlier on Tuesday at the age of 37 in a car accident.

Boro created few clear-cut chances but almost levelled the tie late on when Stewart Downing's 89th-minute free kick from just outside the penalty area rattled the crossbar.

That proved to be the closest they came to a shot on target all evening and manager Tony Pulis, who began this season in the Premier League in charge of West Bromwich Albion, knew his side were always outsiders to reach the final.

"The teams that have finished third and fourth over a season have got to Wembley and that's justification, if anything," Pulis told Sky Sports.

"It's a hard season, it's a long season but they've been the third and fourth best teams in the league so you have to take it on the chin. It's difficult for me to say that but that's being brutally honest."

The home fans erupted in wild celebrations at fulltime and flooded onto the pitch to join the players.

The playoff final will be held at Wembley Stadium on May 26 where Villa will face Fulham who overcame Derby County 2-1 on aggregate on Monday.

Bruce has led two teams through the playoffs to the Premier League but expected a tight encounter against the Londoners.

"They're a good football side. They've got some good players but, then again, so have we," he said. "We're going to Wembley, let's enjoy it."

Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham celebrates at the final whistle during the Championship play-off semi-final, second leg against Derby County at Craven Cottage. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham celebrates at the final whistle during the Championship play-off semi-final, second leg against Derby County at Craven Cottage. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Fulham beat Derby County 2-0 (2-1 aggregate) at Craven Cottage on Monday to move into the final of the Championship play-offs courtesy of second-half goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Denis Odoi.

Derby have now missed out in the play-offs three times in the past five seasons while Fulham are looking for a return to the top tier of English football for the first time since 2014.

Fulham attacked from the outset but Derby keeper Scott Carson frustrated them throughout the first half with a series of fine saves.

A one-handed effort kept out a strong header from Fulham's Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and Carson was at his best again to keep out a powerful drive from Aboubakar Kamara.

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But Slavisa Jokanovic's side finally got reward for the efforts two minutes after the interval when 17-year-old Sessegnon showed great composure to drive home a left-foot shot from inside the area.

The decisive goal came in the 66th minute when Belgian Odoi beat Carson with a brilliantly angled header from a corner.

Fulham head to Wembley for the first time since they lost the FA Cup final to West Ham United in 1975.

"This club needs this kind of happiness," said Jokanovic, "After 43 years we will play at Wembley and it is an important achievement for us.

"We deserve this victory and a chance to reach the Premier League. The players showed great belief and confidence and it is credit to my players," he said.

Derby manager Gary Rowett felt his team had been too nervous.

"I think our composure let us down tonight, we made far too many mistakes on the ball, we looked a bit edgy to be honest," he said.

"They outplayed us in the second-leg and they more than deserve to go through."

MATCH INFO

Championship play-offs, second legs:

Aston Villa 0
Middlesbrough 0

(Aston Villa advance 1-0 on aggregate)

Fulham 2
Sessegnon (47'), Odoi (66')

Derby County 0

(Fulham advance 2-1 on aggregate)

Final

Saturday, May 26, Wembley. Kick off 8pm (UAE) 

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