EFL Championship

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Bilic back in England at Championship side West Brom

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WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) Former Croatia coach Slaven Bilic is back in club management at second-tier team West Bromwich Albion in England.

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Bilic has been out of work since being fired by Saudi club Al-Ittihad in February, only five months into the job. Prior to that, he spent two-plus years at West Ham in the Premier League before being fired in November 2017.

West Brom lost in the League Championship playoffs last month and is preparing for a second season in the second tier.

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Bilic says “Albion have convinced me they want to return to the Premier League. Albion have a short-term project and a long project and they do not clash.”

John Terry finalist for vacant Middlesbrough job

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In a matter of just a few days’ time, John Terry could be named the new manager of side Middlesbrough.

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According to a report from the Guardian, Terry is being considered as one of three finalists, alongside former Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic and former Boro defender (and current first-team coach) Jonathan Woodgate, for the EFL Championship side’s vacant job.

Terry has reportedly spoken to the Boro hierarchy in recent days, and chairman Steve Gibson is expected to make a final decision over who will replace Tony Pulis following the weekend. Boro spent the entirety of the 2018-19 season jostling for a place in the promotion playoffs, but finished seventh and missed out by a single point.

After announcing his retirement from playing in October, Terry was named assistant coach on Dean Smith’s staff at Aston Villa, where he has remained throughout the season and will do so through Monday’s promotion playoff final against Derby County.

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Jokanovic led Fulham to promotion last season before he was fired in November as the Cottagers appeared headed for an immediate relegation back down to the Championship, which ultimately came to pass.

Woodgate came through the Boro academy and played for the club on two occasions, 2006-2007 and again from 2012-2016. He was named a member of Steve Agnew‘s coaching staff in March 2017, less than a year after ending his playing days.

Aston Villa beat West Brom in shootout to reach Wembley final

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Aston Villa moved one giant step closer to a return to the Premier League by topping local rivals West Bromwich Albion 4-3 on penalties in the EFL Championship promotion playoffs on Tuesday.

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West Brom erased what was a 2-1 deficit to begin the semifinal second leg. Away goals are not used as a tiebreaker in the Football League’s promotion playoffs, thus the two Birmingham sides were forced into a penalty shootout, where Jed Steer would atone for a nearly calamitous error early in the game and season full of similar blunders.

Villa were in England’s top tier from 1975 until suffering relegation in 2016; they fell to Fulham in last season’s promotion final at Wembley Stadium. West Brom, on the other hand, saw their eight-year run in the PL end this time last year.

Leeds United hold a 1-0 advantage over Derby County, heading home for Wednesday’s other semifinal second leg.

Craig Dawson scored the second leg’s only goal, a towering header from Mason Holgate‘s long throw-in, in the 29th minute.

Villa’s Tyrone Mings made a goal- and potentially season-saving block in the 53rd minute, after Steer gave the ball directly to West Brom’s Jacob Murphy, who took a touch toward goal and fired for the bottom corner, the ball destined for the inside netting. Mings recovered from out of nowhere — wide left, where he was an option for Steer to play the ball out — to get a foot in front of the ball and boot it away.

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Steer started the shootout by denying Holgate with ease, diving to his left and getting both hands behind the ball to keep it out. Conor Hourihane took the opportunity to put Villa ahead seconds later. Steer came up big once again, denying Ahmed Hegazi on West Brom’s second effort. Mile Jedinak‘s first touch after coming on late in extra time came at the penalty spot, and the Australian dispatched his effort as coolly as could be done.

Tosin Adarabioyo got West Brom on the board in round 3, but Jack Grealish restored the two-make advantage by sending Sam Johnstone the wrong way for the third straight penalty attempt. Kieran Gibbs nicked the inside Steer’s right-hand post in round 4, but by the grace of luck the ball found its way into the corner. Albert Adomah put Villa’s fourth attempt over the bar.

James Morrison hammered West Brom’s fifth past Steer, setting up on-loan Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham for the decisive penalty. It wasn’t the best penalty ever hit, as Johnstone got a trailing foot on the ball, but it had enough power behind it to sneak over the line and send Villa to Wembley.

Leeds grab 1-0 win at Derby in promotion playoffs

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Leeds United spent the vast majority of the 2018-19 season occupying one of the top two places in the EFL Championship, only to fall out of the automatic promotion spots at the tail end of the season.

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If this season’s promotion playoffs are just, they’ll be the third club — joining champions Norwich City and runners-up Sheffield United — in the Premier League come August. The problem with that line of thinking is as follows: the Championship’s promotion playoffs have historically been anything but just.

Saturday was a mightily strong start for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, though, as the third-place Whites secured a 1-0 victory away to Frank Lampard‘s sixth-place Derby County. While away goals are not used in the EFL’s playoffs, it’s still a firm advantage ahead of Wednesday’s semifinal second leg back at Elland Road.

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Kemar Roofe bagged the first leg’s only goal, in the 55th minute, set up by a stunner curler of a pass from former New York City FC (and Manchester City loanee) Jack Harrison.

Bolton set for much-needed ownership change after sale agreed

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BOLTON, England (AP) A businessman who was banned from English soccer for three years for financial misconduct has signed a deal to buy struggling second-tier club Bolton.

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Bolton says Laurence Bassini, the former chairman of Watford, has purchased the club and will settle its long-term debts that are threatening to put one of the founding members of the English Football League, in 1888, out of business.

The change of ownership must be approved by English soccer authorities.

Bolton, which could be relegated to the third tier on Friday, owes $1.6 million to Britain’s tax authority and its players have still not been paid their salaries for March.

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Bassini was banned from holding a position of authority at an English club for three years in 2013.

Bolton says “significant funds will immediately be made available” once the sale of the club is confirmed, “enabling the payment of the outstanding wages to the players and coaching staff along with a number of the long-term creditors.”

Bolton was most recently in the Premier League in 2012.