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Fulham outlasts Cardiff to set up West London Derby playoff final

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It’s going to be aw West London Derby playoff promotion final after Cardiff City and Fulham staged a thrilling second leg at Craven Cottage on Thursday.

Brentford beat Swansea City in the other semifinal to set up

The Cottagers entered the match with a 2-0 advantage earned in Wales but Cardiff put the tie on its ear just two minutes after halftime of the second leg.

[ MORE: FA Cup Final preview ]

The match was 1-1 on goals from Fulham’s Neeskens Kebano and Cardiff’s Curtis Nielson when halftime sub Lee Tomlin cleaned up a back post mess to give the Bluebirds a second away goal to match Thursday’s hosts.

Fulham is bidding to make its absence from the Premier League a one-year problem, while Brentford has not played first-tier football since the 1946-47 season.

Who will get promoted to the Premier League? Your Championship primer

Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images
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The Football League Championship returns on Saturday, as Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion look to keep hold of their automatic promotion places.

It won’t be easy.

[ MORE: Spurs-Man Utd recap | JPW’s 3 Things ]

Here is your guide to the final nine matchdays of the season for England’s second tier.

The top two

Marcelo Bielsa’s Peacocks and Slaven Bilic’s Baggies have 7- and 6-point cushions on third place with nine matches to go, a congested fixture list ready to tax the benches of all of the sides.

The playoff race

Third through sixth in the Championship will contest the playoffs for the third promotion spot to the Premier League.

Third-place Fulham will learn a lot about whether it’s in the race for automatic promotion or just a playoff probability within one week’s time. The Cottagers host fourth-place Brentford at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday and go to Leeds one week later.

Fulham has 64 points, six back of second place and nine clear of seventh place. It would be very surprising if the Londoners didn’t keep hold of a playoff spot.

Brentford (60) and Nottingham Forest (60) have five-point advantages on seventh, nice but not too comfortable, while Preston North End’s one-point-above-sixth-place footing is uneven.

Six teams are within two wins of Preston’s 56 points. Seventh-place Bristol City has 55, Millwall and Cardiff City have 54, Blackburn and Swansea City have 53, Derby County has 51, and QPR’s on 50.

Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
Rooney’s Rams are six points behind the playoff places (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Americans Abroad

Speaking of QPR, USMNT veteran Geoff Cameron is a fixture for Mark Warburton’s London side. The 34-year-old has played 28 times this season.

Derby County has seen a fine season out of Duane Holmes, who has three goals and three assists. Not American, but ex-DC United man Wayne Rooney is Holmes’ teammate.

No American has played more Championship minutes than Fulham’s Tim Ream (3142). Next up are Wigan’s Antonee Robinson (2587) and Hull City’s Eric Lichaj (2546).

Matt Miazga is handling center back duties for Reading, while Cameron Carter-Vickers’ latest loan stint at Luton Town has gone well individually.

Luca De La Torre (Fulham) has seen neglible minutes this season.

English-born MLS and NCAA star Jack Harrison is with Leeds.

Manchester United academy product Jack Harrison of Leeds United went to school at Wake Forest before playing for NYCFC in Major League Soccer (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images).

The relegation scrap

Three clubs will go down to League One next season. Two of the three teams in the bottom three will need a massive change in fortunes to avoid that fate.

Barnsley is seven points back of 21st and Luton Town sits six points back of safety.

Charlton Athletic is currently in 22nd with 39 points, but it can look to a single win as chance to move ahead of any of the five sides ahead of it (depending on how goal differential goes).

Hull City, Wigan Athletic, and Middlesbrough are just two points above the drop zone, while Stoke City and Huddersfield Town have three-point distances above the drop.

Charlton can pass Hull with a win at the KC Stadium on Saturday, though it’s only other chance to affect a fellow struggler is July 18 versus Wigan.

This week’s schedule

Fulham v. Brentford — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Middlesbrough v. Swansea City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Millwall v. Derby County — 8 a.m. ET Saturday
West Brom v. Birmingham City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Huddersfield Town v. Wigan Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Hull City v. Charlton Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Sheffield Wednesday v. Nottingham Forest — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Luton Town v. Preston North End –10 a.m. ET Saturday
QPR v. Barnsley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Reading v. Stoke City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Blackburn Rovers v. Bristol City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Cardiff City v. Leeds United — 7 a.m. ET Sunday

Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City: Comfortable Canaries back in Premier League

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A pair of players which suffered through Norwich City’s relegation a year ago helped the Canaries back into the Premier League with two early goals.

Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond netted twice in three minutes to build a 2-0 lead that would last through the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on Monday morning.

It’s called the richest game in the world, with an estimated $180 million on the line. It didn’t provide a wealth of scoring chances, though.

[ ALSO PROMOTED: Watford | Bournemouth ]

After the clubs exchanged cross bar strikes from City’s Bradley Johnson and Boro’s Jelle Vosson, Norwich got on the board.

Jerome victimized Daniel Ayala and then dribbled toward ‘Boro keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos at a tight angle before firing between the legs to make it 1-0 Canaries in the 12th minute.

source: Getty Images
Norwich City keeper John Ruddy

And it was 2-0 within minutes, as the 15th saw Nathan Redmond bury a low, right-footed shot into the side netting.

Middlesbrough, of course, opened the second half with a desperate attacking idea that lasted the duration. That provided the opportunity for dangerous Norwich counters, but the Canaries took a while to find those chances as ‘Boro worked to narrow the deficit.

In the end, though, there was a class difference between the Canaries and ‘Boro. Norwich rarely seemed troubled by their promotion foes, and Alex Neil’s side are going up.

 

LINEUPS

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Whitehead, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah, Vossen (Kike, 68′), Tomlin, Bamford.

Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond (O’Neil, 87′), Howson, Tettey, Johnson, Hoolahan (Dorrans, 75′), Jerome (Grabban, 75′).

Goals: Jerome (12′), Redmond (15′)

Championship playoff final set: Boro, Norwich with Premier League promotion on the line

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The 2015 Championship promotion playoffs final is set for May 25, when Middlesbrough and Norwich City are set to do battle at Wembley Stadium with a place in the 2015-16 Premier League on the line. Here’s a quick recap of how Boro and Norwich advanced to this year’s playoff final.

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Middlesbrough 3-0 (5-1 agg.) Brentford

Norwich finished the regular season in fourth place, four points off the automatic promotion places. In the first leg of their playoffs semifinal against Brentford, Boro snatched a 2-1 victory in the away leg, which set them up nicely for the second leg to be played at the Riverside Stadium.

Friday afternoon saw Aitor Karanka’s side book their place in the final through three goals and a total sense of domination over Brentford. Lee Tomlin, Kike and Albert Adomah scored the goals on Friday, as the most goals-starved playoff team during the regular season advanced comfortably while allowing just a single goal over 180 minutes.

Norwich City 3-1 (4-2 agg.) Ipswich Town

Norwich, who were relegated from the Premier League last year, finished the regular season in third place, three points behind the automatic promotion places. In the first leg of their semifinal tie with Ipswich, the sides drew 1-1, setting up a winner-takes-all second leg at Carrow Road.

Ipswich’s Christophe Berra was sent off five minutes into Saturday’s second leg, leaving the Blues a man short for the remainder of the game. Wes Hoolahan converted the ensuing penalty kick, but Ipswich answered back through Tommy Smith right on the hour mark. Nathan Redmond (64th minute) and Cameron Jerome (76th) put the tie to bed with late goals.

The Monday, May 25 final between Boro and Norwich will be played at 10 am ET.

Championship playoff preview: Boro 2-1 Brentford, Norwich 1-1 Ipswich ahead of leg 2

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Over the course of the next two days, two Championship teams will book their places in what is widely referred to as “the most lucrative game in world soccer”: the Championship promotion playoff final.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Promotion Watch coverage ]

With more than $200 million up for grabs via the Premier League’s various revenue streams, most notably its television rights deals, the Championship’s promotion playoffs offer a form of drama and tension that’s hard to come by anywhere else in the world.

Here’s how things stand ahead of Friday and Saturday’s semifinal second legs:

Middlesbrough 2-1 Brentford — Friday, 2:45 pm ET

Jelle Vossen and Fernando Amorebieta netted for Boro in the first leg, giving their side a slim lead ahead of the second leg at home. Andre Gray equalized the first leg, but the level scoreline was short-lived.

With no away-goals rule in the promotion playoffs, Boro and Brentford would find themselves heading to extra time, and perhaps penalties, with any one-goal Brentford victory.

Regular season meetings: Boro 4-0 Brentford; Brentford 0-1 Boro; Brentford 1-4 Boro (League Cup)

[MORE: 10-GOAL THRILLER sees Swindon into League 1 playoff final ]

Norwich City 1-1 Ipswich Town — Saturday, 7:15 am ET

Jonny Howson opened scoring in the first leg, before Paul Anderson equalized on the stroke of halftime. Saturday’s second leg will serve as the 99th East Anglian derby, and have more on the line than any of the 98 to come before it.

The scenarios are simple: win the game on Saturday, whether in regular time, extra time or penalties, and you’re into the playoff final, to be played at Wembley Stadium on May 25.

Regular season meetings: Ipswich 0-1 Norwich; Norwich 2-0 Ipswich