Aston Villa win away to Boro, take first step toward PL return

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Aston Villa took one giant step forward on Saturday, their 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough moving Steve Bruce‘s side miles closer to a return to the Premier League after two seasons in the Championship.

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Saturday’s clash at the Riverside Stadium was only the first leg of the semifinals of the promotion playoffs, sure, but it was a colossal result for Villa who hold a 1-0 halftime lead ahead of Tuesday’s second leg back at Villa Park. Away goals are not used in the Championship’s promotion playoffs.

Mile Jedinak scored the game’s only goal (assisted by Jack Grealish), a header in the 15th minute, as Bruce works toward winning the fifth top-flight promotion of his 20-year managerial career.

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Bruce, who endured and persevered through the passing of his father in February followed by that of his mother earlier this month, felt his side handled the pressure of the playoffs tremendously well after they dropped five points from their final two games of the regular season.

“We’re pleased,” he said after the game. “We’ve given ourselves a little advantage, although we’re only winning 1-0 at halftime and strange things can happen. But we’ve handled the pressure of a big game here very well.”