Aston Villa went into the game as many peoples favourites, although as Derby showed in the previous round you can never rule them out. Throughout the first half, it was an evenly contested game as both sides failed to create any clear-cut chances. Villa had a couple shots that went well wide of the goal from two of the young stars in Grealish and Abraham. Whilst at the other end, Derby had a couple of efforts on goal with a Keogh header and a long-range effort from Mount, but nothing to bother Villa. The game was shaping up to be as most predicted, Derby playing their possession-based style of play with Aston Villa looking to play on the counter. Right before half-time, Villa were able to capitalize on a high defensive line from Derby to give themselves a very important lead. A loose ball in the middle of the park fell to the feet of Hourihane, who curled a quality pass out wide into the run of Adamoah. The Aston Villa winger cut the ball back to Elmohamady who delivered a terrific cross onto the head of El Ghazi. The Dutchman made easy work of the cross as he headed the ball back across the helpless Roos and into the Derby goal. What a time to for Villa to take the lead. It was joy for the Villa fans and despair for the Derby supporters. Once again, it was up to Lampard to rally up his players and get them to replicate the magic of Elland road that happened only a couple weeks prior.
Whatever Lampard said clearly didn’t get through to his goalkeeper, and it was Roos who would be at fault for the second goal. A deflected shot from the ever dangerous El Ghazi ricocheted off one of the Derby defenders. From what appeared to be an easy decision in that the Dutch keeper should have punched the ball away from danger, Roos had other ideas. Instead of punching the ball, the Derby keeper attempted to catch the ball inside the crowded penalty area. This was unfortunately a mistake he will have to live with for the rest of his life, as he missed the ball and Mcginn was there to head home. 2-0 Villa and what a way to get it. Not like the Villa fans cared. The goal forced Lampard into making a double substitution. On come Waghorn and the hero from the last round, Jack Marriott. And it was that man again, Marriott, who would be the man to step up for Derby. A cross from Jozefzoon on the left wing found the head of Jaden Bogle at the back post. The young Derby full-back headed the ball down to Marriott, and the striker was there to smash the ball past Steer. 2-1, game on. Derby continued to huff and puff at the Villa goal, but there was no moving Villa’s defence or the brilliant Jed Steer. Unfortunately for Lampard and Derby, it was too little too late and it was another Chelsea Legend in the Aston Villa dugout who would be the happier out of the two. Smith and Terry had finally accomplished their goal of turning Aston Villa into a Premier League side. Birmingham now had a representation in England’s topflight. What a season for Aston Villa and I’m sure it makes the joy of promotion ever so sweeter knowing that they’re swapping places with the team who destroyed there dreams only a year earlier.
It was a nervy and cagey final played out by two of England’s sleeping giants. Both teams deserve huge amount of credit for the season they’ve had. The consistency and resilience of Villa to reach back-to-back play-off finals is something to be admired, and Derby to completely change the set up of the club and give youth a chance epitomizes there newly reformed philosophy. Hindsight is a beautiful thing and you can only imagine Lampard will look back on the mistake by Roos and think what if, but I suppose that’s just a part of football. Congratulations to Dean Smith, a young English manager who has worked his way up from the bottom and has gone on to have great success. Let’s see how he and his players take to the intensity of the Premier League and for Derby…. I suppose they just have to live with the Craziness of the Championship for at least another season.