Promotion and relegation

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Aston Villa wins Premier League promotion

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  • Villa back in Premier League for first time since 2015-16
  • El Ghazi involved in both Villa goals
  • Marriott strikes late for Frank Lampard‘s Rams

Prince William and Jimmy Dugan — er, Tom Hanks — rejoice: Your club is back in the top flight.

Anwar El Ghazi was the star of the show as Aston Villa clinched Premier League promotion with a 2-1 defeat of Derby County in the Championship Playoff Final at Wembley Stadium on Monday.

Al-Ghazi scored and helped produce John McGinn’s insurance goal, and Derby’s Jack Marriott got a deserved goal late to close the gap.

[ MORE: Spurs “so positive” on Kane health ]

Villa got its first half goal from Al-Ghazi when he stooped to head a Mohamed Elmohamady cross into the goal.

And it was Al-Ghazi’s drive and shot from distance which was blocked into the air. Rams goalkeeper Kelle Roos timed his leap poorly in reaction, allowing McGinn to fire in front to head the ball out of his hands and into the goal.

At that point it felt like more of the same, as Villa beat Derby 4-0 and 3-0 during the season.

Derby picked up its intensity later, and Marriott turned and hit a pretty strike that skittered just wide of the far post. He’d later bundle a ball over the line to set up a grandstand finish.

Championship Final preview: Aston Villa v. Derby County

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Nineteen spots in the 2019-20 Premier League season have been clinched, and Monday will see the final berth awarded to either Derby County or Aston Villa.

It’s the richest game in football, and two historic English clubs will see it as their way back to a rightful place in the top flight.

[ MORE: Everton adds Lossl ]

Aston Villa was a mainstay of the PL for the first 24 years of the league’s existence, but has spent three seasons in the Championship.

Derby County has spent seven years in the top flight across two separate spells, and twice won the top flight in the 1970s.

Separated by just two points on the table this season, fifth place Villa beat Derby decisively in both league matches.

Three different scorers marked their names in the 3-0 decision at Pride Park in November before Villa bettered the score line with a 4-0 triumph at home on March 2.

Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson has been the scoring star for Frank Lampard‘s Rams, bagging 15 goals. Fellow loanee Mason Mount of Chelsea has also been key with eight goals and five assists, while Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn have chipped in plenty.

Another Chelsea loanee, Tammy Abraham, is the clear threat for Villa, having potted 26 goals this season. Transfer market mainstay Jack Grealish has been in focus, too, for Dean Smith’s men. Smith is becoming just as big a star, having charged Villa up the table since taking over in October.

Monday morning’s match will change the fortunes and legacies of many players and both managers. And Lampard is already being tipped as a possible Chelsea boss.

Lampard: Derby ‘underdogs again, but we’re there’

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It’s a banner day for Derby County, who hopes there’s another to come for the Pride Park outfit.

Frank Lampard‘s Rams became the first club in Championship playoff history to lose the first leg at home and advance, topping Leeds United 4-2 on Wednesday for a 4-3 aggregate win and a date with Aston Villa in the final.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

And Derby owner Mel Morris has a lot of love for Lampard’s efforts following the Rams’ earning their first playoff final berth since 2014. From the BBC:

“What a night. If we were going to do it, that is the way to do it. I was more nervous when we had a goal lead than I was before the game when I was quite calm. But towards the end I was on the edge. This is Frank’s first season as manager and no one has done this before. What an achievement.”

As for the man himself, Lampard is buzzing and claimed the team was better over both legs of a glorious win. From Sky Sports:

“We were 1-0 down, I said to the lads everyone had written us off. It’s 1/8 for them to go through or something, everyone says they’ve beaten us three times, but we made a little tweak, and it worked brilliantly but you need bravery on the ball and the lads showed it.

“There’s work to do, this isn’t the end, we’re underdogs again and we’ll have a tough game against a brilliant Villa team, but we’re there.”

Derby and Aston Villa is a match-up of historic English clubs, and the subplots are plenty. It’s difficult to bet against either side given their seasons.

Lampard’s Derby County comes back to reach promotion playoff final

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With two red cards and six goals in one thriller, Derby County and Leeds United gave us a beauty in the second leg of their Football League Championship promotion playoffs semifinal second leg on Wednesday.

Frank Lampard‘s Derby emerged victorious with a 4-2 win in the leg, 4-3 on aggregate, as Leeds went crashing out of the playoffs.

It had to feel delightful times two for Lampard, who discovered Leeds was spying on his Rams before a match in January.

[ MORE: West Brom looking to Hughton? ]

Derby will meet Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium on May 27 in a match full of subplots, including Lampard matching wits with Aston Villa assistant and former Chelsea teammate John Terry.

Jack Marriott scored twice, with Chelsea loanee Mason Mount and Liverpool man Harry Wilson also scoring for the Rams.

Stuart Dallas scored a pair of goals for Leeds.

Gaetano Berardi was sent off with 12 minutes to play in the first 90 minutes, his side down 3-2 on the day.

Leeds entered the game with a 1-0 lead, and doubled its advantage through Dallas’ first goal of the match.

But Derby scored in the final minute of the first half and the first minute of the second, with Marriott and Mount getting on the score sheet. The former of the two goals also included very poor goalkeeping from one-time Real Madrid man Kiko Casilla.

Berardi saw his second yellow card in the 78th minute for a wayward, late slide tackle.

Liverpool man Harry Wilson nearly had it 4-2 with a chipped finish off the post before Marriott used a classy finish to deliver the score line. Derby’s Scott Malone then saw his second yellow as the match finished 10v10.

Cardiff, Brighton now locked in race to avoid relegation

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Chris Hughton hasn’t been denying that Brighton and Hove Albion has been in a relegation battle, but Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to 18th place Cardiff City means the table tells the story plainly.

The Seagulls are up against it.

[ RECAP: Brighton 0-2 Cardiff City ]

“We have a fight on our hands,” Hughton said after the loss sunk the Seagulls to within two points of the drop zone, albeit with a match-in-hand on Cardiff.

“This is a proper fight. We have to make sure we turn it round by staying together, digging deep and making ourselves hard to beat.”

Cardiff had won just one match in seven coming into Tuesday, and sat in 18th since a Week 28 loss to Everton.

But six of its 31 points on the season have now come at the expense of Brighton, and Neil Warnock thinks his men have what it takes to pull off a great escape. From the BBC:

“We had a few pundits say it would be our final game in the Premier League but we are alive and kicking. We deserved tonight. … We came out of the traps and enjoyed it today. We are far from finished yet.”

Brighton plays two matches by April 23, while Cardiff just faces Liverpool. The final three matches for both teams will be staged on the same days of the calendar.

Here are the nine matches involving each team the rest of the way. Brighton has a 12-goal advantage on Cardiff in terms of differential:

Saturday: Wolves v. Brighton

Sunday: Cardiff City v. Liverpool

April 23: Tottenham v. Brighton

April 27: Brighton v. Newcastle -and- Fulham v. Cardiff

May 4: Arsenal v. Brighton -and- Cardiff v. Palace

May 12: Brighton v. Man City -and- Man Utd v. Cardiff

There are scenarios where relegation, the Premier League title, and a Top Four place will all be determined by goal differential for Brighton and Cardiff against the two Manchester powers on Decision Day.

In a year which saw so many setbacks and the horror of its record signing killed in a plane accident, how incredible would it be for Cardiff to come back from the brink?