Belfast Telegraph

Fulham await Villa or Boro in Wembley decider

 

By Nick Mashiter

Fulham ended their play-off hoodoo in style by coming from behind to beat Derby 2-0 and put themselves one win away from the Premier League.

The Cottagers had not won any of their previous seven play-off ties, including Friday's Championship semi-final first leg, but second-half goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Denis Odoi overturned a one-goal deficit at Craven Cottage and sent them to Wembley.

There they could play Aston Villa and boss Steve Bruce has backed his players to handle the occasion against Middlesbrough tonight as they continue to plot their promotion assault.

Villa hold a slender 1-0 lead ahead of tonight's second leg in Birmingham.

Bruce was appointed in October 2016, with Villa 19th, and has previously questioned the mentality and ability of some players to handle the pressure - although he expects no problems tonight.

He said: "It's a big club, history and tradition and you need big players. We've given ourselves an advantage, we're playing against a very experienced team and experienced manager.

"We can't take anything for granted; if we think we can show up and just put our boots on then we're mistaken."

Bruce made no secret his first-leg strategy had been designed to limit Boro dangerman Adama Traore.

However, Boro boss Tony Pulis is confident that his team can make more of Villa's concentration on the winger as they attempt to stage a fightback.

Pulis said: "I thought we created good opportunities from other people on Saturday. Adama's a massive threat for anybody, so it's important that we get the ball out to him quickly."

Belfast Telegraph

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