Competition: Play-Off Final
Date: Saturday 26th May, 2018
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Weather: 22c, sunny
Hutton, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton
Fulham red card
Odoi (two bookable offences)
Villa’s hopes of a return to the Premier League were wrecked by Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute goal in a bruising Play-Off Final.
Steve Bruce’s side were condemned to another season of Championship football despite throwing everything at Fulham in a one-sided second half, particularly after the Cottagers went down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes following the dismissal of Denis Odoi.
Despite the backing of over 38,000 fervent supporters, Villa simply never got going in a first half which was laced with frustration.
The claret-and-blue army were incensed when Ryan Fredericks escaped caution for a crude challenge which left Jack Grealish writhing in agony, particularly as Alan Hutton had been booked for a much less robust foul.
That didn’t disguise the fact, though, that Bruce’s side were out of sorts throughout an opening period in which Fulham looked more likely to make a breakthough.
Aboubakar Kamara’s 21st-minute shot sounded a warning shot as it landed on the top of the net, and two minutes later Ryan Sessegnon’s precise pass enabled skipper Tom Cairney to sidefoot past the advancing Sam Johnstone.
Villa’s only dangerous first-half effort saw Grealish fire over following a delicate free-kick from Robert Snodgrass, but they resumed in much more positive mood.
In the 51st minute, Grealish got in front of keeper Marcus Bettinelli to head over following a delightful move involving Snograss, Conor Hourihane and Albert Adomah, and that was quickly followed by an angled Hourihane drive which flashed across the face of goal.
Grealish was convinced he had equalised on the hour mark until his fierce close-range drive was blocked by Bettinelli, although there was a scare when Stefan Johansen fired only just over five minutes later.
Grealish was again sent sprawling in the 70th minute, and this time it resulted in a red card for Odoi, who had also been booked in the first half.
Villa pushed forward relentlessly in the closing stages, with Snodgrass and sub Scott Hogan both going close.
But a day which had begun with so much optimism ended only in despondency.
VILLA: Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 76), Chester. Terry, Hutton; Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Jedinak (Onomah 76), Adomah; Grealish; Grabban.Unused subs: Bunn, Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason.
FULHAM: Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 76), Mitrovic, Sessegnon.Unused subs: Button, Fonte, Ayite, Piazon.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant 1: Gary Beswick
Assistant 2: Dan Cook
Fourth official: Kevin Friend