If your team is taking part in the Championship play-offs, you can’t exactly expect everything to go smoothly. The fact that the prize at the end of the rainbow is a place in the Premier League speaks for itself, with all four teams involved giving it their all in order to try and claim the spot for themselves. This season has been no different, as we’ve already been treated to three different and very intriguing games of play-off action – with last night’s edition revealing the first finalist in this year’s, well, you know, final.
The finalist in question is Aston Villa Football Club, but they certainly didn’t make it easy for themselves. Villa were 2-1 up following the first leg of action against Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion, but with the second leg taking place at The Hawthorns, it was clear to see that they were going to have something to say about Villa strolling into the final. As it turns out the Baggies were the ones who probably deserved to go through based on the opening 90 minutes, and they took the lead within 30 of those minutes courtesy of a nice near-post header from Dawson.
As the game went on Villa were gradually able to come into their own, but not to the point where they gave West Brom any kind of substantial worry. Then, with around 10 minutes remaining, the visitors were given a huge slice of fortune as Chris Brunt foolishly got himself sent off for a second bookable offence. From that point on the home side had their backs against the wall, which is how the next 30 minutes of action played out in extra time.
They were holding on for dear life, and somehow, managed to make it all the way through to a penalty shootout. With the home crowd behind them you’d think they may have been the ones with the advantage, but you’d be oh so wrong. They missed their first two penalties with some bizarre takers being put on the spot for them, whereas Villa duly obliged in scoring theirs. An Adomah miss made things a little bit more nervy for Dean Smith’s men, until finally, Tammy Abraham stepped up and sent Villa to Wembley for the second straight year.
The chance for redemption
They lost out to Fulham in last year’s final, but this time around, it really does feel like the pieces are all coming together for them. It seems almost obvious to suggest that Leeds will be the ones they’ll play on the grandest stage of them all, but regardless of whether it’s them or Derby, they should be feeling pretty confident.
The bookmakers believe in their ability to return to the top flight of English football, but really, it’s all about who shows up on the day. Villa have a lot of quality in their ranks and if they can utilise that on the day, then they’ll be very difficult to beat.
West Brom, on the other hand, will have to go back to the drawing board ahead of another season in the Championship.