Derby County, with two Chelsea loan players in the side and Blues legend Frank Lampard in the dugout, staged an incredible comeback at Elland Road in the Championship play-offs to book their place in the Wembley final.
Mason Mount scored and Fikayo Tomori defended resolutely, while Ashley Cole came off the bench late on, as the Rams came from 2-0 down on aggregate to triumph 4-3 and set up a date against John Terry and Tammy Abraham’s Aston Villa for a place in the Premier League. It was also the first time in the Championship play-off’s 33-year history that a side had overturned a first-leg home deficit.
It was a frantic semi-final in Yorkshire, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side holding a 1-0 lead after the first leg in the Midlands four days previously. The Rams lined up in a 4-diamond-2 system, something Bielsa didn't see coming for once, with Mount in central midfield and Tomori at the heart of defence, and the change in shape caught Leeds by surprise early on.
However, the hosts soon settled and doubled their aggregate advantage midway through the first half courtesy of Stuart Dallas, who reacted quickest to turn the ball into the net after Kalvin Phillips’s free-kick came back off the post.
Derby had to weather the ensuing storm and only the crossbar prevented them falling further behind, though an enforced substitution late in the half turned into an inspired one when Lampard sent on Jack Marriott and the striker netted with his first touch.
'It’s very tough to come here and win but these games are special and anything can happen.'
— Mason Mount
The Rams were rampant at the start of the second period and scored twice in 12 minutes to turn the tie on its head. Mount put them ahead on the night seconds after the restart with a brilliant goal, the 20-year-old’s finish even more impressive as he slipped just beforehand and teetered off-balance as he struck the ball. It was his 11th goal of a productive season in the English second tier and his celebration to shush the Leeds faithful was typical of someone who’s spent so much time in Chelsea blue.
Things got even better for Lampard’s side just before the hour mark as they edged ahead for the first time in the semi-final when Harry Wilson stayed cool to convert a penalty, though the night’s drama was far from over. Derby’s lead lasted just a few minutes before Dallas restored parity, ensuring a grandstand finale.
Leeds went down to 10 men with 12 minutes remaining and that proved the incentive for the Rams to push forward in search of a winner. Wilson hit the post but Marriott went one better with a lovely finish to seal the victory. Another young player on loan from the Blues - Izzy Brown - was thrown on in the final moments for just his second appearance of an injury-hit campaign but he was unable to prevent Derby from progressing and it was Leeds tears, not Lampard's, on the Elland Road turf at the final whistle.
It means three Chelsea Academy loanees and three former Chelsea legends will head to Wembley on Monday 27 April for an intriguing play-off final.