Match: Aston Villa v Derby County
Date: Monday 27th May 2019
Competition: Play-Off Final
Venue: Wembley Stadium
El Ghazi 44, McGinn 59
Steer; Elmohamady, Tuanzebe, Mings (Hause 81), Taylor; McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish; Adomah (Green 73), Abraham, El Ghazi. Unused subs: Kalinic, Whelan, Jedinak, Lansbury, Kodjia.
Story in brief
Villa are back where they belong – in the top flight of the best league in the world.
Dean Smith’s men clinched promotion to the Premier League with a Wembley triumph which more than made amends for so many disappointments at the national stadium in recent times.
Anwar El Ghazi headed the opening goal just before half-time and John McGinn doubled the lead with another header approaching the hour mark before sub Jack Marriott reduced the deficit to make it a nerve-racking finale.
El Ghazi’s goal was a just reward for Villa’s first-half enterprise.
They were on the front foot from the outset and might have made a breakthrough as early as the fourth minute, when Alex Tuanzebe was unable to get his shot away from a few yards out.
That was followed by a number of decent chances as Jack Grealish sent a swerving drive over the bar, McGinn delicately chipped narrowly past the far post and Tammy Abraham drifted into the penalty are before lifting a sublime right-foot shot just too high.
Almost 36 minutes had elapsed before Derby produced their first shot, Jed Steer holding Mason Mount’s 20-yard drive, but that was the prelude to Villa taking the lead with a superbly constructed goal.
Referee Paul Tierney opted to play the advantage rule when McGinn went down under a challenge on the half-way line, allowing Conor Hourihane to deliver a fine pass to Albert Adomah on the right.
The winger cut the ball back to Ahmed Elmohamady, who crossed perfectly for El Ghazi to score with a stooping header which left Kelle Roos helpless as it sneaked inside the keeper’s right-hand post.
The second goal was less conventional, but it was greeted with equal glee by the massed ranks of supporters at Wembley’s West Stand
El Ghazi was again involved, cutting inside from the left to unleash a powerful drive which looped into the air as it deflected off a Derby player.
Roos looked certain to claim it, but McGinn jumped in front of the keeper to send a close-range header over the line.
Smith’s men were cruising at that stage but the introduction of subs Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn saw Frank Lampard’s side force their way back into the game.
Waghorn looked a certain scorer when he raced clear nine minutes from the end, only to be halted by Tyrone Mings’ superb sliding tackle.
The classy defender was injured making the challenge and was still on the ground as the ball was played back into the area for Marriott to drill home a low shot.
The Rams were rampant now, but Villa survived seven long minutes of stoppage time to clinch their place at English football’s top table.
Fit for a Prince
The Duke of Cambridge has to don his best attire when he makes public appearances.
But it was very much a laid-back Prince William who watched his favourite team win promotion to the Premier League.
Casually dressed and wearing a baseball cap, Wills was at Wembley purely as a Villa supporter – and he lived every minute.
Accompanied by his friend and former Villa striker John Carew, His Royal Highness was a picture of delight as he celebrated his team’s two goals; his head was in his hands as Dean Smith’s men endured seven minutes of stoppage time - and he was grinning from ear to ear and clenching his fists at the final whistle.
Oh, yes, he also clapped along as Hi-Ho Aston Villa echoed around the stadium after the match.
Put you feet up lads, enjoy the summer – and we look forward to seeing you back in the Premier League in August!