Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

Aston Villa hold their nerve to seal Premier League return

Aston VillaVilla celebrate a return to English football’s lucrative top-flight that will be worth between £170 million and £200 million to the Birmingham club.

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Aston Villa ended their three-year exile from the Premier League on Monday with a 2-1 win over Derby County in the Championship playoff final at Wembley.

Anwar El Ghazi gave Villa the lead with a header just before the half-time break and John McGinn made the most of a goalkeeping error to score Villa’s second just shy of the hour mark.

Jack Marriott came off the bench for Derby to ensure a nervous finish for Villa with a goal nine minutes from time but it could not prevent County from recording a playoff loss for the fourth time in six seasons.

For Aston Villa Manager Dean Smith, whose father is suffering from dementia, this was a meaningful victory.

“I went to see my old man on Friday and I managed to get his eyes open for two minutes and I said to him ‘next time you see me I’m going to be a Premier League manager’,” Smith told Sky Sports. “He smiled and nodded, for me that’s enough.”

Ecstatic Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish said:

“I’m speechless. It was such a hard game, but when I look around and I’ve got John, Anwar, I believe. It means the world to go up, we know where this club belongs. 

“I’ve stayed here and we’re back there now. I’ve led my boyhood team to the Premier League.”

El Ghazi added: “We know and felt the pressure. This club has to be in the Premier League and it deserves to be there.”

Villa’s Smith, made one unenforced change by bringing in winger Albert Adomah instead of Andre Green, who dropped down to the bench.

Smith’s side, who had already put seven goals past Derby without reply in two regular season league meetings this season, were much the better side for the first half.

And their dominance was duly rewarded a minute before the interval when a precise cross by Egypt’s Ahmed Elmohamady evaded the Derby defence and allowed Netherlands Under-21 international El Ghazi, who had lost his marker, to run in at the far post and score with a stooping header.  

It was a goal celebrated by the massed ranks of Villa fans at Wembley that included Britain’s Prince William.

Villa doubled their lead in the 59th minute.

El Ghazi’s shot was deflected high into the air and Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos, who waited for the ball to drop so he could complete a catch instead of attempting a punch, was left floundering as McGinn steered the ball into the net.

But at 2-0 down, a desperate Derby raised their game and pulled a goal back nine minutes from time.

Florian Jozefzoon’s cross was nodded back in by Jayden Bogle, and substitute Marriott rolled a shot into the far corner, although Martyn Waghorn may have got the very last touch.

Injuries and stoppages meant Villa, the 1982 European champions, had to come through seven minutes of additional time.

But they held their nerve to join Norwich City and Sheffield United in next season’s Premier League.

© Agence France-Presse

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