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Three things learned: Aston Villa v. Fulham

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Fulham sealed promotion back to the Premier League on Saturday as the 10-man Cottagers beat Aston Villa 1-0 in the Championship playoff final at Wembley.

Tom Cairney‘s strike midway through the first half was enough to send Fulham back to the top-flight and leave Villa heartbroken.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a tense battle in the heat at Wembley.


FLUID FULHAM FIT FOR TOP-FLIGHT 

Since December Fulham’s fluid, attacking style of play saw them go on an incredible run of just one defeat in 24 games as they just missed out on automatic promotion with a defeat on the final day of the season.

The Cottagers’ silky play won them the playoff final as Slavisa Jokanovic’s men stuck to their playing philosophy with Tom Cairney pulling the strings in midfield, Aleksandar Mitrovic a handful up front and teenager Ryan Sessegnon floating about to cause havoc. They dropped deeper in the second half as Villa went at them but still had good chances and always looked dangerous on the break, even when they were down to 10-men after Denis Odoi picked up a second yellow card.

With their brave style of play, Fulham will add panache to the Premier League.

You can expect special things down by the banks of the River Thames at Craven Cottage as American owner Shahid Khan will no doubt splash the cash to take them to the next level after they dropped out of the big time in 2014. They will be desperate to solidify themselves back in the top-flight.

Fulhamerica is back and on that note U.S. men’s national team center back Tim Ream had himself a heck of a game at the heart of Fulham’s defense at Wembley to help seal the deal.


SESSEGNON SENSATIONAL

You can understand exactly why the biggest clubs in England have been chasing Sessegnon for many years.

The 18-year-old was the Player of the Season in the Championship and he was involved in the key moment in the final as the Fulham academy graduate has been the main reason they’re back in the Premier League.

Sessegnon finished the season as Fulham’s top goalscorer with 17 goals and there were many pushing for him to be included in England’s World Cup squad this summer. He has all of the talent available to flourish as a wide forward in the top-flight and after Matt Targett‘s arrival in January he has been pushed further forward from left back and has thrived.

There’s no doubt that Sessegnon is destined for big things but now he has the fairtyale end to a fairytale season for him at Fulham.


VILLA’S EXPERIENCED HEADS RATTLED

Villa’s experienced defense boasts Ahmed Elmohamady, John Terry, James Chester and Alan Hutton and in a massive game at Wembley they were rattled early on and Villa couldn’t quite drag themselves back into the game.

Steve Bruce‘s side had the second-best defensive record in the second-tier this season and they kept Fulham from opening them up for most of the first half but one lapse in concentration was exploited by Sessegnon and Cairney as Hutton stepped up, Terry was caught out and Villa conceded.

To be fair to Bruce’s side they dragged themselves back into the game impressively after a turgid first half display and were easily the better team after the break with Jack Grealish pulling the strings.

Grealish (who could well have been sent off) squandered two good chances either side of half time with a rising shot in the first half and then a header he should’ve done better with in the second, while the English playmaker also danced through Fulham’s defense before being denied by Marcus Bettinelli.

Villa have made significant progress this season under Bruce but you have to wonder if he and most of this Villa squad will be around next season, especially after a year of struggle off the pitch for Bruce as he lost both of his parents within a few months.

If Bruce sticks around then Villa will be one of the favorites for promotion next season.

Transfer rumor roundup: Yedlin bids from Newcastle, Villa; Bony to West Ham

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There’s no shortage of transfer rumors this Tuesday, and that’s on the heels of moves for two Manchester United defenders and an American player heading to a La Liga struggler.

West Ham United has been working since before the end of last season to bring a truly elite striker to the Olympic Stadium, only to learn that a lack of UEFA Champions League football is a legit concern for top-end finishers.

MORE: Ranking PL early season expectations

With Andy Carroll joining West Ham’s list of walking wounded, the Irons could be turning to Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony. The Man City man was a monster at Swansea City, averaging a goal every other game, but has not found his growl at the Etihad Stadium.


The race to win the signature of USMNT and Tottenham Hotspur speedster DeAndre Yedlin is heating up.

Yedlin, 23, helped Sunderland stay in the Premier League at the expense of Northeast rival Newcastle United and PL mainstay Aston Villa last season, and now is wanted by both sides as they contest the Championship.

The defender had previously been linked to Trabzonspor, Hull City, and Derby County, and will certainly want to go somewhere with the expectation of starting. With United likely to sell Daryl Janmaat and Villa seeking an upgrade on Alan Hutton, could Yedlin be playing under either Rafa Benitez or Roberto Di Matteo for about $7 million?


Antonio Conte knows his Serie A as well as he knows his defenders, and has apparently been rejected in a big money bid for a star in both categories.

Alessio Romagnoli, 21, is one of the best young defenders in Italy, having moved from Roma to AC Milan last season, and Conte reportedly offered close to $40 million. Milan paid $28 for Romagnoli last season, and doesn’t want to sell him. In fact, their valuation is said to be below Conte’s offer.

[ MORE: PL Playback on Week 2 ]

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Aston Villa 0-4 Chelsea: Blues batter hopeless Villa

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  • Pato scores on Chelsea debut
  • Villa lose seventh-straight PL game
  • Loftus-Cheek nets first PL goal
  • USMNT’s Miazga makes Chelsea debut

Chelsea beat 10-man Aston Villa 4-0 on Saturday at a sunny Villa Park with Pedro scoring twice in the second half to add to first half goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Pato.

[ MORE: Miazga Watch – How’d he do? ]

U.S. international Matt Miazga made his Chelsea and Premier League debut and didn’t put a foot wrong, albeit it against a very poor Villa outfit who went closest to scoring through Jordan Ayew. Alan Hutton was sent off for a second yellow late on as Villa’s miserable season continues but Chelsea is now unbeaten in 15 Premier League games.

The Blues move up to ninth place on 44 points, while Villa remain bottom with a seventh-straight defeat and they look destined for relegation as they sit 12 points off safety with six games to go.

[ MORE: Watch full match replays

Chelsea started brightly with Pedro shifting the ball onto his right foot and curling just over Brad Guzan‘s bar.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek looked lively and was full of running to support Loic Remy, while Pedro had a goal disallowed for offside after 20 minutes.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Pato came on to replace the injured Loic Remy after 20 minutes and moments later Chelsea were ahead.

John Obi Mikel kept possession and played it to Pedro who found Cesar Azpilicueta out wide. His cross was swept home by academy product Loftus-Cheek via a deflection off Villa’s Joleon Lescott. 1-0 to Chelsea.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Loftus-Cheek impressed throughout the first half and his first PL goal was the icing on the cake. Villa almost got level as Baba Rahman‘s clearance cannoned off Ayew but Thibaut Courtois saved from close range.

Ayew slide another effort just wide and Loftus-Cheek intercepted Carlos Sanchez’s pass but curled his low effort just wide. Right on half time Pato won a penalty kick as Aly Cissokho hauled him down in the box and the Brazilian slotted home the penalty kick to score on his debut. 2-0.

Just 49 seconds into the second half Chelsea went 3-0 up as half time sub Oscar played a one-two with Pato and played in Pedro to slot home. Game over.

USMNT man Miazga looked composed on the ball and at ease in defense throughout and the 20-year-old certainly had a debut to remember.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Pedro made it 4-0 on the hour mark as Pato’s shot was parried out by Guzan and straight to the Spaniard who tucked home his second of the game.

Villa’s fans booed their team for the remainder of the game — as Hutton received two yellow cards to get sent off — in a volatile atmosphere as Chelsea eased to victory and hardly got out of second gear for the final 30 minutes.

Aston Villa 0-2 Tottenham: Harry Kane double pulls Spurs within two of the top

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The masked man Harry Kane does it again. Two more goals brought his season tally to 19 in 30 matches, and brought Spurs within two points of Leicester City at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.

Spurs started on the front foot, with Harry Kane just inches high in the fourth minute, clattering the crossbar from a good distance out under pressure from a charging Brad Guzan.

Villa pushed forward past the 12-minute mark, and put Spurs under a bit of pressure, but they struggled to find anything in front of goal. Kane had an even better chance in the 24th minute dragging a Danny Rose cross on net, but it was shot right at Guzan who saved with his legs. Somehow Spurs were kept out again bang on the half-hour mark when Erik Lamela‘s dragged shot was tipped onto the bar by Guzan. The rebound struck Guzan’s back and rolled back towards the goal mouth, but it was scrambled away by Alan Hutton before rolling over the line.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Villa saw its first opportunity on 39 minutes, when a free kick from the left edge of the box met the foot of Rudy Gestede, who had pulled free from the mark of Harry Kane. The shot was powerful, but straight into the waiting arms of Hugo Lloris.

Spurs found the opener in first-half added time, as a quick free-kick by Dele Alli caught Villa off-guard. The midfielder looped it over the back line to a streaking Kane, who finished from a tight angle past a helpless Guzan.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

They’d hit again with a clinical second goal just two minutes after halftime. Alli down the left edge of the box sent a scything cross through the middle. A dummy from Erik Lamela saw the ball through to Kane who ripped the ball into the top of the net.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The game was clinical from that point on. Villa tried pumping balls forward, and Spurs countered with venom, although the final ball was just out of reach for a third. As time ran down the fans held up a “Lerner Out” banner and applauded the movement.

The win for Spurs pushed them within two points of Leicester City, a much-needed narrowing of the gap. The Foxes still hold a game in hand. Meanwhile, Aston Villa continues to languish at the bottom of the table, on just 16 points this season, eight back of anyone else.

Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham United: Villa now 17 games without a win

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  • Ayew equalizes from the spot
  • Hammers took lead through Cresswell
  • Villa now winless in 17 games

Aston Villa drew 1-1 against West Ham United on Boxing Day with the Villans now 17 games without victory in the Premier League.

West Ham took the lead through Aaron Cresswell‘s shot right before half time, but a penalty from Jordan Ayew made it 1-1 and Villa pushed hard for the win.

With the point Villa remain bottom of the table and are now nine points from safety. West Ham are winless in seven and are on 26 points.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

An even first half played out at Villa Park with the home side going close through Carles Gil just before the interval as he fired a shot wide of Adrian’s right-hand post.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Right on half time the Hammers went ahead with Cresswell firing a low shot into the far corner with his wand of a left foot. 1-0 to West Ham and Remi Garde, once again, had that sinking feeling on the sidelines.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

In the second half Villa, predictably, threw the kitchen sink at West Ham and they were handed a lifeline when Angelo Ogbonna bundled over Rudy Gestede in the box to give away a penalty.

Ayew stepped up and placed the penalty high into the top corner as the Holte End celebrated and tried to roar their team onto victory. Alan Hutton went extremely close to delivering the win as he headed towards goal at the back post but Adrian acrobatically kicked the ball away to keep the scores level.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

In stoppage time USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan was forced into a fine stop down low as Enner Valencia‘s free kick was heading into the bottom corner but Villa held on for a point, which, in reality, does little to ease their relegation fears.