Match: Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Date: 15th May, 2018
Competition: Championship Play-Off semi-final, second leg
Venue: Villa Park
Weather: 18c, partly cloudy
It was tense and it was tight, but Villa are going to Wembley for the Championship Play-Off Final.
Steve Bruce’s side booked a place against Fulham on 26th May with a goalless draw which left the semi-final decided by Mile Jedinak’s header in the first leg at The Riverside.
With the exception of an early James Bree drive which flashed wide, the opening half-hour was a cagey, cat-and-mouse affair, with neither side taking unnecessary risks.
But the game suddenly opened up when Albert Adomah’s low cross set up an inviting chance for Conor Hourihane, who needed treatment after being on the receiving end of a crunching challenge as he attempted to convert from six yards.
Jack Grealish then saw a fierce drive deflected for a corner, and when the midfielder delivered the flag kick from the left, Robert Snodgrass and Lewis Grabban both flicked the ball on before John Terry hooked wide.
Despite trailing from the first leg, Boro’s only goal attempt before half-time was a Ryan Shotton header which Bree cleared from a crowded goalmouth.
As Villa looked to extend their aggregate advantage, Grabban’s close-range effort before the striker’s powerful shot was tipped over by Darren Randolph.
And the Boro keeper made an even better save when he acrobatically pushed away Grealish’s angled drive in the 75th minute.
There was a late scare when former Villa winger Stewart Downing hit the bar with a free-kick after Sam Johnstone had handled outside the penalty area.
Snodgrass, Hutton, Grealish, Johnstone
ASTON VILLA: Johnstone; Bree, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Hourihane (Whelan 84), Jedinak, Grealish; Snodgrass, Grabban (Kodjia 79), Adomah (Bjarnason 90).Unused subs: Bunn, Samba, Hogan, Onomah.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Randolph; Shotton (Da Silva 82), Fry, Friend; Traore, Howson (Gestede 73), Clayton, Besic, Downing; Assombalonga (Bamford 68).Unused subs: Dimitrios, Leadbitter, Cranie, Harrison.
Referee: Michael Dean
Assistant Referee 1: Simon Long
Assistant Referee 2: Mark Scoles
Fourth Official: Paul Tierney