The allure of getting to the Premier League often makes for fascinating viewing, as teams just don’t want to quit and don’t want to give up on the idea of playing top flight football. The rewards that come with doing so are there for all to see, and more often than not, the pain of failure is often greater or equal to the ecstasy of success. This season we’ve got four teams involved in the play-offs that are all bringing something different to the table, and during the first leg of the semi finals this past weekend, they all gave us reason to believe that the second legs are going to be just as good if not better.
Of course, both games won’t be level heading into the second leg, as two teams were able to take full advantage of their ties. Aston Villa’s game against West Bromwich Albion was the first of the day, and for a while, it looked like the home side were in trouble. Dwight Gayle was able to pounce on a mistake from Whelan to give the Baggies the lead, and they did a great job of holding onto that advantage as they got deeper and deeper into the second half.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Villa hit back with two quick goals to give themselves the 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg. West Brom will feel aggrieved especially after Gayle was sent off in the final stages of the game, but either way, nobody can deny that The Hawthorns is going to be electric for the second leg.
Later in the day we had Derby County vs Leeds United, and while Leeds were clearly the favourites, it felt like Derby had some momentum after their win over West Brom on the final day. They just seemed to be capable of pulling off a miracle or two, which is exactly what you need when it comes to the play-offs. However, on the day, it was the Yorkshire side that took the advantage heading into the second leg.
Which way will it go?
The bookmakers still have Villa and Leeds as the favourites to reach the final at Wembley, and can you imagine what an occasion that’d be? Two giant clubs in the realms of English football, battling it out for the right to finally return to the big time. There’s nothing quite like this point in the season, and we’re really, really intrigued to see where things go from here.
In a way, we kind of wish four clubs could go up this season, especially when you consider how poor the likes of Brighton have been in recent months. Alas, that’s not how it works, and only one team can finally take that next step.
West Brom and Derby are certainly capable of coming back from one-goal deficits, though, so we shouldn’t count them out just yet. Either way, we’re already witnessing a great display of what it means to truly go after the big prize.