Aston Villa secure Premier League return
Dean Smith’s men held on after a tense final few minutes.
Aston Villa ended their three-year Premier League exile after goals from Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn secured a deserved 2-1 win over Derby at Wembley.
A year after suffering Sky Bet Championship play-off final heartbreak at the hands of Fulham, Villa made amends as El Ghazi and McGinn headed home either side of half-time to give them control of a pulsating encounter.
Rams substitute Jack Marriott set up a tense finish by halving the deficit nine minutes from time but Villa dug in to hold on.
Victory for Dean Smith’s side in the most lucrative game in world football will pocket the West Midlands club a minimum £170million and returns them to the top flight for the first time since relegation in 2016.
Derby, meanwhile, suffered further late-season despair, losing in the play-offs for the fourth time in six seasons.
Frank Lampard’s men, who impressively came back to knock out Leeds in the semi-finals, struggled to create for much of the game and could have few complaints about a result which condemns them to a 12th successive campaign in the second tier.
Lampard’s disappointment contrasted with the jubilation experienced by his former Chelsea and England team-mate John Terry, who was in the opposing dugout in his role as Villa assistant boss.
Villa had lost each of their last four Wembley finals, dating back to the 2000 FA Cup final which was the last one to be played at the old stadium.
After winning both league games between the sides by an aggregate score of 7-0, they were firm favourites going into the game.
Villa boss Smith said his players could make themselves “icons” with glory at the national stadium and his side began on the front foot and edged a cagey opening period devoid of clear chances.
Jack Grealish lashed over from the edge of the box early on following a poor clearance from Derby goalkeeper Roos, while Tammy Abraham later showed a glimpse of his class before side-footing off target.
Derby’s last play-off final ended in an agonising 1-0 loss to QPR in 2014.
They eventually mustered a meaningful attempt eight minutes before the break, although Mason Mount’s drive was straight at Jed Steer.
The contest was in desperate need of a spark and it duly arrived a minute before the break with a sweeping move which began deep in Villa territory.
After being released by captain Grealish, Conor Hourihane sprayed the ball wide to Albert Adomah. He laid the ball back for Ahmed Elmohamady to deliver a pinpoint cross which replays showed El Ghazi scruffily turned into the bottom left corner with his back after arriving ahead of Jayden Bogle.
With Scott Malone suspended and Duane Holmes injured, Lampard had turned to experience to plug the gaps, selecting former England internationals Ashley Cole and Tom Huddlestone.
His side needed to respond but, after a fractious beginning to the second period, they fell further behind.
El Ghazi’s attempted cross was deflected into the air and McGinn nipped in and capitalised on Roos’ fumble to nod home in front of the jubilant Villa supporters.
With little to lose, Lampard threw on attacking duo Marriott and Martyn Waghorn in the hope of forcing extra-time.
Marriott, who had been the semi-final hero at Elland Road, gave the Rams a lifeline with a neat finish on the turn after Bogle nodded down inside the box.
But, despite seven minutes of added time, Derby were unable to force an equaliser during a frenetic finish.