Football isn’t always as beautiful as its nickname makes it out to be, but even with that being the case, the end of the season almost always delivers when it comes to the drama and intensity of the leagues ending and the many, many cup finals. One game that always receives a great deal of attention in the Championship play-off final, if only due to the overwhelming finances involved in actually winning the final. It takes place at Wembley every year, and more often than not, serves as one of the pillars of the English football season.
Yesterday it was the turn of Aston Villa and Derby County, in what was always going to be an entertaining West Midlands vs East Midlands battle. Villa came out like a house on fire but the Rams were able to soak up the pressure, more so because Dean Smith’s men were unable to take their chances. Lampard’s side slowly grew into the game as the first half went on, but after a poor piece of tracking towards the back post, Villa were able to nudge themselves ahead just before the half time whistle blew.
Difficult to retaliate
From that point on it was a back to the wall kind of job for Derby, who really did struggle to break Villa down. A goalkeeping error ensured they doubled their lead, and it seemed like the favourites were going to walk back up to the Premier League with relative ease. However, the power of substitutions allowed the Rams to edge their way back into the contest, with Waghorn turning in Marriott’s effort to pull them back within one.
Alas, even when that happened they still weren’t really able to punish Villa, who held on despite seven minutes of added time being produced by the fourth official. It was a tense few minutes and a tense day in general, but in the end, this sleeping giant managed to drag themselves back to where many feel they deserve to be.
After losing at Wembley to Fulham last season at this stage, it was always going to be difficult for the club to rebound – but boy oh boy, did they ever rebound. The run they’ve been on to end the season has been nothing short of extraordinary, and a great deal of attention needs to be given to the fact that they were able to produce as they have done. On the other hand, of course, we need to spare a thought for Derby.
Alongside the parade of players that are expected to leave during the summer transfer window, there are still many, many questions over the future of Frank Lampard as manager of the club. He has been heavily linked with a switch to Chelsea, as Maurizio Sarri is expected to leave the Blues following the Europa League final tomorrow. That’d be a hard position to turn down given his history at Stamford Bridge, but at the same time, he seems to have built a real reputation for himself at Derby.