Tammy Abraham and John Terry were those with a Chelsea connection celebrating at the end of Monday afternoon’s Championship play-off final.
Although centre-forward Abraham (pictured top), who has spent the season on loan at Aston Villa, was not able to add to his 26 goals this season, he led the attack for the side that ran out 2-1 winners over Derby County at Wembley and as a result, secured promotion back to the Premier League after three years away and losing the play-off final a year ago.
Terry played in that game. Today he watched from the touchline in his role as Villa’s assistant manager and enjoyed an afternoon in stark contrast to former Blues Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, now in charge of Derby, and our young loan players there, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori who played the full game.
It was rare Wembley disappointment too for 38-year-old Ashley Cole. Our former full-back, playing possibly the last game of his professional career, was handed another opportunity to perform in a stadium he knows so well due to a suspension for Scott Malone. Derby’s first-choice left-back was sent off in their dramatic play-off semi-final win over Leeds.
At Wembley this afternoon Villa scored in each half, with goals from Anwar El-Ghazi and John McGinn establishing at 2-0 lead. Derby pulled one back through substitute Jack Marriott when in the ascendency but it was too little too late. The Rams were left to rue the manner in which they had conceded the two Villa goals.
The first half was fraught and lacked the incident often seen in these Championship play-off show-piece encounters. Villa captain Jack Grealish sent an early shot over but it took his side just over half-an-hour to bring Abraham into the game in a way he could be dangerous. The 21-year-old was given space to turn midway inside the opposition half and advance to the edge of the area, and was disappointed not to hit the target.
It was Mount at the other end who fired the first shot of the game on target not long after but it was straight into the goalkeeper’s midriff.
The breakthrough came with two minutes to go to half-time. Villa worked the ball into space out wide and it was from the side of the pitch policed by Cole and Tomori that a good low cross came in. Dutchman El Ghazi had made a run from the flank and diverted the ball in off his back to give his side the lead.
There was consternation from Villa early in the second half when the whistle was blown and a booking given to Derby for a foul on Abraham, just as he was sending a team-mate through on goal.
The game heated up as the challenges went in. Tomori was one of a flurry of booked players but then the 21-year-old defender did much better when tracking an Abraham run into the Derby box and executing a well-timed challenge.
Despite that intervention, Villa doubled their lead soon after in a messy way. El Ghazi was involved again, sending over a cross which took a heavily deflection and was then turned into the net by a combination of goalie Kelle Roos ineffective claim and the challenge of John McGinn.
With 20 minutes left, Mount for Derby sent a well-weighted ball through inside the full-back but Jayden Bogle shot into the side-netting. Our on-loan midfielder then shot wide before Derby went closer to scoring as they kept the pressure on.
They were rewarded with 82 minutes on the clock when Marriott found the net but despite some late scrambles in the penalty area, their rivals from across the Midlands hung on to win.