Aston Vila, with Bandon’s Conor Hourihane playing the full 90 minutes, have won the Sky Bet Championship play-off final, beating Derby 2-1 at Wembley today to book a return to the Premier League and a (minimum) £170million bonanza for the club.
Having been 13th in the Championship table, few would have predicted Villa would get into the playoffs, let alone get promoted. Ten wins a row saw the Villains into the playoffs however.
In the end it was a mistake from Derby’s goalkeeper Kelle Roos which proved the difference between the teams but Villa were good value for the win over the 90+ minutes.
Dean Smith cemented his place among Aston Villa royalty in front of the future king as he led his boyhood club back to the Premier League.
Goals from Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn had Prince William rocking as a 2-1 win over Derby booked a return to the top-flight and with it a £180million promotion bonanza.
Now Dean Smith can claim to be the Royal Highness of the Holte End he stood on a kid after guiding the club from midtable when he arrived in October to the promised land.
You have to feel for opposite number Frank Lampard, who has implemented his own exciting style of play into his youthful County outfit.
But in truth some of his kids were simply bullied on Wembley’s hallowed turf as his attack offered little until the introduction of Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn set up the nervy finale.
Lampard’s Rams looked to be looked more like rabbits caught in the headlights early on as they struggled to get out of their half.
And his goalkeeper Kelle Roos almost gifted Villa the perfect start when his miscued clearance fell perfectly for McGinn to feed Grealish. The skipper took a touch before driving towards the box but he spurned the effort wide despite a clear view of the target.
McGinn then tried his luck twice, once with a volley another a dink from the edge of the area, as Smith’s men began to turn the screw.
Villa’s pressure told in the final moments of the opening half as El Ghazi pounced with a combination off his head and shoulder to break the deadlock.
They hit Derby on the counter as Albert Adomoah rolled the ball back for Ahmed Elmohamady to bend it towards the back post for the stooping Dutchman to divert it past Roos.
The leap of delight from Smith on the touchline said it all as his dream edged closer while the Prince punched the air with joy up in the stands.
But they must have both known it was about to become reality when McGinn doubled the advantage on the hour.
And speaking of punching, Lampard probably felt like landing one on his goalie as the stopper allowed McGinn to nick in and head home despite looking favourite to catch the ball after El Ghazi’s cross was deflected.
But as this fixture has shown so many times in the past, you just never know what it will throw up and this one was exactly the same as the Villans were made to sweat.
Lamaprd threw on forwards Waghorn and Marriott in a desperate attempt to get back into it.
And the two both had a huge role to play as they Derby pulled one back.
The Rams’ lifeline came courtesy of a ball over the top to release Waghorn. Tyrone Mings was able to clear, but only straight into the path of Florian Jozefzoon.
His cross was headed back in by Jayden Bogle, and Marriott showed his coolness to rifle home from close-range.
The nerves and excitement swept around Wembley as Derby fans began to believe in the impossible.
But despite throwing everything at Villa in the seven minutes of injury time, they were unable to claw it back as Villa ended their three-year top-flight exile.