- End of 2nd Half
- 2nd Half
- 1st Half
Aston Villa - Fulham
Championship - 27 May 2018
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IT'S OVER - FULHAM RETURN TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE!
Tom Cairney's 23rd-minute goal proves the difference - and the Cottagers return to the big time after a four-year exile.
Heart-break for Villa, but Fulham deserve this.
Half-hearted penalty appeals from Villa as Grealish goes down under the challenge of Targett - but there was minimal, if any, contact.
ASTON VILLA CHANCE!
Adomah's cross picks out Hogan who has drifted in between two defenders. He's slightly off balance though and heads wide. Should be testing the goalkeeper.
There will be FIVE minutes of additional time!
Dear me, what a disappointment! Snodgrass gets it all wrong as his curled effort drifts well wide of goal.
Mitrovic catches Grealish... free-kick to Aston Villa in a dangerous position - about 25 yards.
This is a great opportunity for Villa. Is this the moment?
- Yellow cardAlan HuttonAston Villa
Hutton is booked for a foul on Mitrovic, and Fulham will take their time with the resulting free-kick. They are agonisingly close to victory.
Snodgrass lumps a ball into the feet of Hogan - but the Villa forward is offside.
Onamah unloads a shot from 25 yards but Ream makes a brave and crucial block. Time is running out for Villa...
- OffRyan FredericksFulham
- OnCyrus ChristieFulham
Fulham with their third change now as Cyrus Christie replaces Fredricks at right back.
- OffConor HourihaneAston Villa
- OnScott HoganAston Villa
Hourihane limps off and Steve Bruce is forced into his third and final change. Here comes Scott Hogan, meaning Villa have THREE strikers on for the remaining nine minutes of normal time.
Targett goes to ground too easily and Onamah skips past him on the right. His cross is partially cleared, only as far as Grealish who rifles a venomous shot at goal but Norwood throws himself in front of it to make the challenge.
Subs, subs and more subs!
Kamara makes way for Tomas Kalas as Fulham look to shore up their defence.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Kodjia is on for Villa, as he replaces for Ahmed Almohamady and Josh Onomah is on for Jedinak.
- Yellow cardMile JedinakAston Villa
Jedinak is booked for a professional foul on Cairney.
They may be down to 10 men but the Cottagers aren't going to sit back...
Sessegnon drives down the left channel and finds Mitrovic inside the box. He takes a touch but fires his volley over the bar from eight or 10 yards.
- OffStefan JohansenFulham
- OnOliver NorwoodFulham
FULHAM SUB: The Cottagers make a defensive change as the pragmatic Oliver Norwood replaces Johansen.
- Red cardDenis OdoiFulham
RED CARD - FULHAM ARE DOWN TO 10!
It's late, it's clumsy - Odoi is shown a second yellow card for a needless foul on Grealish. The Belgian defender was Fulham's hero in the play-off semi-final, but now he has given his manager a headache.
Hutton slides in on Kamara inside the box, but no spot-kick is given, despite Fulham's protests.
Fulham, on the counter once more, create yet another chance in this enthralling play-off final. It's led by Sessegnon who feeds Johansen, but the midfielder blazes over from just inside the penalty box.
Fulham win a corner. There's a wrestling match in the penalty area as the delivery comes in... Ream manages to get his head on it but steers his effort wide.
- Yellow cardJack GrealishAston Villa
NASTY! Is Grealish lucky to remain on the pitch? He lunges in from behind on Cairney. It's late and high, but Anthony Taylor produces only a yellow card. Fulham aren't happy.
It's wave after wave of attack from Villa now. Fulham supporters - how are your nerves? Who doesn't love the play-offs?
ASTON VILLA CHANCE!
Grealish drives Villa forward. He keeps going and going and going, skipping past multiple Fulham defenders. He's closing in on the goalkeeper but his shot is saved by Bettenelli in spectacular fashion.
What a goal that would have been.
Down at the other end, and the presence of the tireless Grealish does just enough to put McDonald off as he blazes miles over the bar.
Grealish slides through Grabban who is in a one-on-one situation with Odoi, but the Fulham defender narrows the angle and blocks the shot.
Excellent movement from Mitrovic as he finds space to meet Targett's devilish cross, but glances his header wide from close range. That was a great opportunity to put the game to bed.
But Villa need to be careful of Fulham's speed on the break! Cairney wins the ball in midfield and tries to slip through Kamara but overhits his pass.
Villa are enjoying their best spell of the game, while Fulham drop deeper and deeper. In the second-half Bruce's side have had 66 per cent of the ball. Finally they are asking some serious questions of their opponents.
Adomah causing Fulham all kinds of problems now. He links up with Hourihane but his cross has too much zip on it and none of his team mates can slot it home.
ASTON VILLA CHANCE!
Adomah's in-swinger finds Grealish who gets himself in front of the Fulham goalkeeper but heads over the top of the crossbar.
Grealish showed great desire to get there, but should have scored.
Much, much better from Steve Bruce's side though.
Villa work the ball into the feet of Adomah who shows blistering pace to drive to the by-line and deliver a cross. He picks out Snodgrass but his looping header is over the bar.
Great movement from Mitrovic as he shifts wide to receive the ball, before sending in a low cross which Chester hacks behind.
- 2nd Half
Villa get the second-half underway. There were no changes in personnel from either side, but Bruce must have altered his tactics at the break.
- End of 1st Half
Fulham deservedly lead at the break, thanks to Tom Cairney's 23rd-minute goal. Villa have been poor; they have offered virtually nothing up front - with the exception of a chance for Jack Grealish - and Steve Bruce must change something if his side are get back into this one.
There is going to be TWO minutes added on at the end of the first half.
A mix-up in defence between Chester and Johnstone almost allows Mitrovic to sneak in! But fortunately - for Villa - the defender gets back to hook it clear.
Mitrovic seems to have an eternity to line up his shot, but Chester makes a crucial intervention to block his goal-bound shot.
Snodgrass' dinked free-kick catches Fulham by surprise - and Grealish is through on goal! But the youngster, from an acute angle, lifts his shot over the top of the bar from close range.
- Yellow cardDenis OdoiFulham
Odoi commits a foul on Grealish - and this time Anthony Taylor produces a yellow card.
Fulham have also had 66 per cent of the possession. Things aren't looking great for the Villians, it must be said.
They're one goal down and have only registered one shot on target - but yet Villa are still sitting very deep. Is this team capable of producing attacking football?
Cool, calm, composed from Cairney - but questions will be asked of Villa's defending.
Fulham win a free-kick and have another opportunity to test the Villa rear-guard. Johansen clips it in but his cross doesn't beat the first man, Hourihane heading clear.
Of the 30 Championship games Fulham have taken the lead in this season, they have only lost once.
Kamara swings a cross in from the right channel and Terry's header falls straight to Sessegnon at the back post! But the youngster can only head straight at Johnstone in Villa's net.
Villa's physical presence means they can really threaten from set-pieces and now they have a chance to swing a free-kick into the Fulham penalty area...
But the Cottagers stand firm on this occasion.
CONTROVERSY! Fredericks appears to stand on Grealish - right in front of Bruce - and the Fulham full-back is fortunate to stay on the pitch.
Fulham have been in total control since the goal. Bruce will be fuming by his side's defending but he knows it is crucial Villa do not concede a second now.
Question marks will be raised of John Terry's defending. For all his experience, the Villa man was caught flat-footed when the pass was played and Cairney took advantage.
Now, have Villa got a plan B? Plan A was to sit back, try to contain their opponents and hit Fulham on the break. Steve Bruce needs to mix it up now.
Sessegnon, so often the goalscorer, is the provider on this occasion. Only 18 years old, but what a talent. Villa switched off, the youngster found space in midfield, got his head up and poked through an inch-perfect pass to Cairney who finished with aplomb.
- GoalTom CairneyFulham
GOAAAALLLLL! FULHAM ARE AHEAD!
It's beautifully worked, as Sessegnon carves open the Villa defence to slide through Cairney who picks his spot and slides the ball into the bottom corner.
A tentative effort, but Fulham have finally registered a shot at goal. Kamara is allowed a pocket of space on the edge of the penalty area and he swivels, volleying the ball inches over Johnstone's bar.
Fulham aren't prepared to give Grealish an inch, even in his own half. This time Johansen fouls the young Englishman, but again no yellow card.
Villa free-kick - Grealish tees up Snodgrass whose shot from distance is dragged well wide.
Grealish is hauled down by Cairney in midfield, and the Fulham midfielder is fortunate not to receive a booking.
Fulham have so much confidence in their passing game, even their goalkeeper Bettinelli is expected to become involved. It's a risky game - and the Cottagers got away with one a moment ago.
Bettinelli mis-places his pass, gifting the ball straight to Snodgrass! He has Adomah to aim for, but overcooks his through-ball and Fulham have a goal-kick.
It's been a rather cagey opening, to be honest. Fulham's key players - Mitrovic and Sessegnon - have been quickly closed down anytime they have received possession. Villa are so well organised in defence - it's going to take a moment of genius or a mistake in defence to break them down.
Fulham are playing just their second match at Wembley - they lost their previous visit in the 1975 FA Cup final against West Ham.
- Yellow cardJames ChesterAston Villa
Anthony Taylor has waited a while but he goes back to book Chester for his earlier challenge on Mitrovic. Top refereeing.
Mitrovic goes down, but advantage is played by the referee Anthony Taylor. Targett delivers a dangerous cross into the penalty area but who else but John Terry hacks clear.
Snodrgass threads a through-pass down the line for Adomah but Fredericks stands firm and wins the ball.
It is clear Villa are keen to sit back and wait for the perfect moment to launch a counter-attack - like they did against Middlesbrough. Adomah and Grealish are the players expected to drive Bruce's side forward.
Fulham are stroking the ball around well in the early stages, while Villa are sitting quite deep. Nobody expected anything different.
Jedinak makes his presence felt with a crunching tackle on Cairney in midfield. It was the Aston Villa man whose goal separated Middlesbrough and his side over two legs.
Fulham get the party started...
The players are making their way onto the pitch: this is it. It is now or never for Aston Villa and Fulham. Win and you're into the big time. Lose and face another season in the crazy Championship.
Facts. Let's have some.
- Fulham are featuring in their first ever play-off final, having previously lost in the semi-finals in 1988-89 (third-tier), 1997-98 (third-tier) and 2016-17 (second-tier), while Aston Villa have reached the final in their first ever play-off campaign.
- Steve Bruce is set to manage in his third play-off final - he has been promoted in both of his previous two, progressing on penalties in 2001-02 as Birmingham manager against Norwich and beating Sheffield Wednesday with Hull in 2015-16.
- Indeed, he's the third manager to manage in three play-off finals in the second tier, after Brian Little (three finals between 1991-92 and 1993-94) and Ian Holloway (2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13).
- Bruce has won four promotions to the top flight (2001-02, 2006-07, 2012-13 and 2015-16), a joint-record with Neil Warnock, who achieved his fourth this season with Cardiff.
- These sides both claimed a win apiece in their Championship meetings this season, with Villa winning 2-1 at Villa Park in October and Fulham winning 2-0 at Craven Cottage in February.
Fulham have been a real joy to watch in this year's Championship, playing a brand of football few other sides are capable of - and Jokanovic isn't going to alter his formation too much for the final.
"We're the youngest team," Jokanovic said. "We must try to dominate the situation and put them under stress.
"We're probably the team with more energy. Experience in life is important but it's not everything - all of us can make mistakes.
"It's a massive challenge ahead of us and we believe in our style.
"At the end of two and a half years we have an important chance in front of us, and we will find our best performance."
Bruce is hoping to achieve a record fifth promotion as manager, but rarely has the former Sunderland boss felt under so pressure to deliver.
"Expectation is huge here but that's why I went for experience," Bruce said.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of my 19 months here. Can we now top it off by getting where we want to be?
"We have to have a healthy respect for Fulham but not be fearful of them," Bruce, 57, added.
"We have an attacking threat that can cause any team problems.
"We've beaten everybody this season but it's a case of when that big chance comes, can you take it?"
Fulham are at full strength this afternoon, much to the relief of Slavisa Jokanovic who is aiming for his second promotion to the Premier League after helping Watford to second place back in 2015.
Ryan Sessegnon is obviously the danger man for the Cottagers - the youngster is hoping to add to his tally of 16 goals this season from left wing.
Jokanovic will need a huge performance from his youngster, but he is also relying on Aleksandar Mitrovic who is the club's second top goalscorer despite only joining on loan at the end of January.
For Aston Villa, Ahmed Elmohamady has recovered from a hamstring injury and replaces James Bree at right-back.
It's the only change Steve Bruce makes from the side that held on for a goalless draw with Middlesbrough to secure their place in the final.
Bruce will be hoping for more big performances from the likes of John Terry, Alan Hutton and Jack Grealish, all of whom were excellent in the matches with Boro.
FULHAM TEAM NEWS
Starting XI: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett, McDonald, Cairney, Johansen, Kamara, Sessegnon, Mitrovic.
Subs: Button, Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Kalas, Christie.
ASTON VILLA TEAM NEWS
Starting XI: Johnstone, Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton, Snodgrass, Hourihane, Jedinak, Adomah, Grealish, Grabban.
Subs: Bunn, Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onamah, Bjarnason, Kodjia.
Hello and welcome to Eurosport’s LIVE text commentary of the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa vs Fulham.
The richest game in football they say, so who will grab the lucrative prize? Steve Bruce ‘s side have the experience, Fulham are the free-scorers – but who will come out on top?
We will find out soon – stay with us for all of the drama and excitement from Wembley.