Tammy Abraham, our young striker on loan at Aston Villa, netted the winning penalty in the play-off semi-final to send his side to Wembley to play for a place in the Premier League.
It had been a mixed evening for the 21-year-old but he showed nerves of steel to step up to take Villa’s fifth penalty of the shootout following a 2-2 aggregate draw at the end of 210 minutes of action. The effort was emphatically dispatched to seal a 4-3 win on penalties and set up a play-off final against either Leeds or Derby.
The youngster had netted a spot-kick at Villa Park three days previously to secure a 2-1 first-leg advantage. It was his 26th Championship goal of the season and his fifth in six games for Dean Smith’s side, who finished fifth in the final standings.
Abraham was an asset in the Villa box throughout at the Hawthorns, helping to combat the Baggies’ set-piece threat, but the striker could do nothing to prevent his side falling behind after half hour. Mason Holgate launched a long throw into the 18-yard area and Craig Dawson rose highest to glance a header into the far corner, putting West Brom ahead on the night and level on aggregate.
Aston Villa – who have former Chelsea captain John Terry as their assistant manager – weathered the storm either side of half-time, though their risky play out from the back invited pressure and handed opportunities to the hosts. It wasn’t until the latter stages that they threatened a winning goal, Abraham firing a free-kick over the bar in the aftermath of Albion being reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Chris Brunt.
Sam Johnstone, the home goalkeeper, then made an excellent save to take the semi-final to extra-time, where Abraham twice went close but could not break through the 10-man Baggies. His best opening came 10 minutes from time as John McGinn floated in a brilliant cross but miscommunication at the back post saw the chance go begging.
So it went to penalties for a place at Wembley and West Brom were unable to recover from missing their first two efforts from 12 yards as they fell agonisingly just short. For Villa and Abraham, only one game stands between them and a return to the Premier League after three years away.
There is a chance tomorrow for more of our on-loan players to reach the Championship play-off final as Frank Lampard’s Derby County head to Elland Road for the second leg of their tie against Leeds. Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount played throughout the 90 minutes at Pride Park on Saturday evening as the Rams lost 1-0, a deficit they will be looking to overturn in Yorkshire.