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All eyes are on Wembley Stadium as the Villans and Cottagers meet for the final promotion spot into England's top flight.
LIVE: Aston Villa, Fulham battle for Premier League promotion
All eyes are on Wembley Stadium as the Villans and Cottagers meet for the final promotion spot into England's top flight.
All eyes are on Wembley Stadium as the Villans and Cottagers meet for the final promotion spot into England's top flight.
LIVE: Aston Villa, Fulham battle for Premier League promotion
All eyes are on Wembley Stadium as the Villans and Cottagers meet for the final promotion spot into England's top flight.
Goal takes a look at the biggest transfer news and rumours from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and beyond
Transfer news & rumours LIVE: Man Utd open Alex Sandro talks
Goal takes a look at the biggest transfer news and rumours from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and beyond
The German manager will have plenty of money to spend as the Reds seek to improve in the Premier League, the club supremo has confirmed
Liverpool chairman Werner promises Klopp transfer funds
The German manager will have plenty of money to spend as the Reds seek to improve in the Premier League, the club supremo has confirmed
Virat Kohli paid an emotional farewell to South African legend AB de Villiers, who retired from all forms of international cricket a few days back. Kohli, who played alongside AB de Villiers for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, wished him luck for the future. He stated that the Proteas man changed the way of batting.
You changed the way of batting, says Kohli about ABD
Virat Kohli paid an emotional farewell to South African legend AB de Villiers, who retired from all forms of international cricket a few days back. Kohli, who played alongside AB de Villiers for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, wished him luck for the future. He stated that the Proteas man changed the way of batting.
Hughes arrived at St Mary's in March on a short-term contract and took eight points from as many games to help Saints avoid relegation on the final day of the season.
Premier League: Southampton manager Mark Hughes thrilled to extend stay at club by three years
Hughes arrived at St Mary's in March on a short-term contract and took eight points from as many games to help Saints avoid relegation on the final day of the season.
Am frühen Samstagabend spielen die Zweitligisten Aston Villa und FC Fulham im englischen Championship-Playoff-Finale um einen Platz in der Premier League. Hier erfahrt ihr alles zum wertvollsten Finale der Welt.
International: Championship-Playoff: Aston Villa oder Fulham in die Premier League?
Am frühen Samstagabend spielen die Zweitligisten Aston Villa und FC Fulham im englischen Championship-Playoff-Finale um einen Platz in der Premier League. Hier erfahrt ihr alles zum wertvollsten Finale der Welt.
Goal takes a look at the biggest transfer news and rumours from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and beyond
Transfer news & rumours LIVE: Man Utd open Alex Sandro talks
Goal takes a look at the biggest transfer news and rumours from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and beyond
The former Manchester City boss will remain with the Saints having helped guide them to Premier League safety in 2017-18
Hughes signs three-year deal to remain Southampton manager
The former Manchester City boss will remain with the Saints having helped guide them to Premier League safety in 2017-18
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
Infos mercato et rumeurs de transfert en direct : Weigl souhaite rester à Dortmund
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
Infos mercato et rumeurs de transfert en direct : Weigl souhaite rester à Dortmund
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
Infos mercato et rumeurs de transfert en direct : Weigl souhaite rester à Dortmund
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
For either Aston Villa or Fulham, a place in the Premier League and the riches that come along with it await.
How to Watch Aston Villa vs. Fulham: Promotion Playoff Final Live Stream
For either Aston Villa or Fulham, a place in the Premier League and the riches that come along with it await.
​After a sublime season for the ​Manchester City, scoring 14 goals and providing 19 assists in all competitions, Leroy Sane will hope to carry his form into the ​World Cup this summer. Set to play a key part for one of the pre-tournament favourites Germany, Sane could add a World Cup winner's medal to the ones acquired as part of City's ​Premier League and Carabao Cup successes this campaign, although you might have to take a second glance to make sure it's him. Now training with Joachim Low...
Leroy Sane Parades New Look in German Training Ahead of the World Cup This Summer
​After a sublime season for the ​Manchester City, scoring 14 goals and providing 19 assists in all competitions, Leroy Sane will hope to carry his form into the ​World Cup this summer. Set to play a key part for one of the pre-tournament favourites Germany, Sane could add a World Cup winner's medal to the ones acquired as part of City's ​Premier League and Carabao Cup successes this campaign, although you might have to take a second glance to make sure it's him. Now training with Joachim Low...
​After a sublime season for the ​Manchester City, scoring 14 goals and providing 19 assists in all competitions, Leroy Sane will hope to carry his form into the ​World Cup this summer. Set to play a key part for one of the pre-tournament favourites Germany, Sane could add a World Cup winner's medal to the ones acquired as part of City's ​Premier League and Carabao Cup successes this campaign, although you might have to take a second glance to make sure it's him. Now training with Joachim Low...
Leroy Sane Parades New Look in German Training Ahead of the World Cup This Summer
​After a sublime season for the ​Manchester City, scoring 14 goals and providing 19 assists in all competitions, Leroy Sane will hope to carry his form into the ​World Cup this summer. Set to play a key part for one of the pre-tournament favourites Germany, Sane could add a World Cup winner's medal to the ones acquired as part of City's ​Premier League and Carabao Cup successes this campaign, although you might have to take a second glance to make sure it's him. Now training with Joachim Low...
Sunrisers Hyderabad are banking on Afghan sensation Rashid Khan to fire one more time against the Chennai Super Kings in Sunday's Indian Premier League final.
IPL 2018: Hyderabad Look to Rashid for Final Flourish Against CSK
Sunrisers Hyderabad are banking on Afghan sensation Rashid Khan to fire one more time against the Chennai Super Kings in Sunday's Indian Premier League final.
Goal takes a look at the biggest transfer news and rumours from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and beyond
Transfer news & rumours LIVE: Sarri to bring Napoli stars to Chelsea
Goal takes a look at the biggest transfer news and rumours from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and beyond
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Afghan President's message to PM Modi after Rashid Khan stars in qualifier 2
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Former Australian cricketer Dean Jones has called for changes in T20 cricket regarding the sixes hit over 85 metres. The 2018 Indian Premier League commentator has stated that eight runs should be awarded to the team when a batsman hits a six over 85 metres. T20 has been a revelation across the globe and Jones wants this new change to make it more attractive.
What has Dean Jones proposed about sixes in T20s?
Former Australian cricketer Dean Jones has called for changes in T20 cricket regarding the sixes hit over 85 metres. The 2018 Indian Premier League commentator has stated that eight runs should be awarded to the team when a batsman hits a six over 85 metres. T20 has been a revelation across the globe and Jones wants this new change to make it more attractive.
The German manager will have plenty of money to spend as the Reds seek to improve in the Premier League, the club supremo has confirmed
Liverpool chairman Werner promises Klopp transfer funds
The German manager will have plenty of money to spend as the Reds seek to improve in the Premier League, the club supremo has confirmed
Mile Jedinak will mit Aston Villa zurück in die Premier League
Mile Jedinak will mit Aston Villa zurück in die Premier League
Mile Jedinak will mit Aston Villa zurück in die Premier League
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Afghan President's message to PM Modi after Rashid Khan stars in qualifier 2
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Afghan President's message to PM Modi after Rashid Khan stars in qualifier 2
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Afghan President's message to PM Modi after Rashid Khan stars in qualifier 2
Rashid Khan, 19-year-old single-handedly took the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) home, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second Qualifier of the IPL 2018, at the Eden Gardens on Friday. After the cricket legends praised his phenomenal performance, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani took to his official social media account to complement Rashid's efforts. He went on to thank the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post claiming that they will not give him away.
Premier-League-Klub FC Chelsea hat wohl die festgeschriebene Ablösesumme für Ex-Napoli-Trainer Maurizio Sarri bezahlt und steht kurz vor einer Einigung mit dem 59-Jährigen. Nach Goal -Informationen überwiesen die Blues acht Millionen Euro an den Serie-A-Klub und werden Sarri an der Stamford Bridge mit einem Zwei-Jahres-Vertrag ausstatten.
Premier League: FC Chelsea: Einigung mit Trainer Maurizio Sarri steht angeblich kurz bevor
Premier-League-Klub FC Chelsea hat wohl die festgeschriebene Ablösesumme für Ex-Napoli-Trainer Maurizio Sarri bezahlt und steht kurz vor einer Einigung mit dem 59-Jährigen. Nach Goal -Informationen überwiesen die Blues acht Millionen Euro an den Serie-A-Klub und werden Sarri an der Stamford Bridge mit einem Zwei-Jahres-Vertrag ausstatten.
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League
Mark Hughes has been rewarded for keeping Saints in the Premier League
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
IPL 2018: Rashid Khan dedicates Man of the Match award to Afghanistan blast victims
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
John Abraham and Diana Penty starrer 'Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran' has taken a decent start at the box office. The film that received a thumbs up from most of the critics, raked in Rs. 4.82 crore on day one. However, the first-day business of 'Parmanu' got affected by the Qualifier 2 of the Indian Premier League (IPL) yesterday.
Check out the day one collection of John Abraham's 'Parmanu'
John Abraham and Diana Penty starrer 'Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran' has taken a decent start at the box office. The film that received a thumbs up from most of the critics, raked in Rs. 4.82 crore on day one. However, the first-day business of 'Parmanu' got affected by the Qualifier 2 of the Indian Premier League (IPL) yesterday.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
IPL 2018: Rashid Khan dedicates Man of the Match award to Afghanistan blast victims
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
IPL 2018: Rashid Khan dedicates Man of the Match award to Afghanistan blast victims
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
IPL 2018: Rashid Khan dedicates Man of the Match award to Afghanistan blast victims
The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) heroically outclassed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 2nd qualifier of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday. Though SRH won the nail-biting affair by 14 runs, Afghani spinner Rashid Khan won a million hearts with his gestures. Rashid received the Man of the Match award for his match-winning performance which he dedicated to the blast victims in Afghanistan. During the post-match presentation, he said, "I want to dedicate my award to those people who lost their lives in a blast back home." Rashid exhibited an all-round performance during the match. With the bat, he scored 34 runs off just 10 balls. While bowling, he picked 3 wickets in his spell of 4 overs and conceded just 15 runs.
Southampton manager Mark Hughes applauds fans during a lap of appreciation after the match. Reuters/John Sibley
Premier League - Southampton vs Manchester City
Southampton manager Mark Hughes applauds fans during a lap of appreciation after the match. Reuters/John Sibley
Premier-League-Klub FC Arsenal befindet sich mit Juventus-Verteidiger Stephan Lichtsteiner in fortgeschrittenen Verhandlungen bezüglich eines Transfers im Sommer. Nach Goal -Informationen wird der 34-Jährige einen Zwei-Jahres-Vertrag bei den Gunners erhalten, um dort den Druck auf Rechtsverteidiger Hector Bellerin hochzuhalten. Danach soll seine internationale Erfahrung der Arsenal-Defensive Stabilität verleihen.
Premier League: FC Arsenal vor Verpflichtung von Juve-Verteidiger Stephan Lichtsteiner
Premier-League-Klub FC Arsenal befindet sich mit Juventus-Verteidiger Stephan Lichtsteiner in fortgeschrittenen Verhandlungen bezüglich eines Transfers im Sommer. Nach Goal -Informationen wird der 34-Jährige einen Zwei-Jahres-Vertrag bei den Gunners erhalten, um dort den Druck auf Rechtsverteidiger Hector Bellerin hochzuhalten. Danach soll seine internationale Erfahrung der Arsenal-Defensive Stabilität verleihen.
Berita video striker Inggris, Harry Kane, telah siap menghadapi Piala Dunia 2018 dengan modal gol-golnya di Premier League 2017-2018. This video presented by BallBall.
VIDEO: Harry Kane Siap Hadapi Piala Dunia 2018
Berita video striker Inggris, Harry Kane, telah siap menghadapi Piala Dunia 2018 dengan modal gol-golnya di Premier League 2017-2018. This video presented by BallBall.
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
Infos mercato et rumeurs de transfert en direct : Arsenal sur Dembélé ?
Goal fait le tour des dernières infos transferts et rumeurs de mercato en Ligue 1, Serie A, Premier League, Liga et Bundesliga.
Experienced Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) batsman Yusuf Pathan said Rashid Khan's belligerent batting against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Qualifier 2 was not a surprise
IPL 2018: Not Surprised by Rashid's Batting Show, Says Yusuf Pathan
Experienced Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) batsman Yusuf Pathan said Rashid Khan's belligerent batting against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Qualifier 2 was not a surprise
Southampton manager Mark Hughes has signed a new three-year contract after keeping them in the Premier League last season, the south-coast club said on Friday.
Premier League: Southampton boss Mark Hughes signs three-year contract after helping club avoid relegation
Southampton manager Mark Hughes has signed a new three-year contract after keeping them in the Premier League last season, the south-coast club said on Friday.
An all-round show from Rashid Khan helped Sunrisers Hyderabad end their four-match slump and beat Kolkata Knight Riders in their backyard at Eden to take them to the finals of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018. Stuck in a rut against Kuldeep Yadav, Sunrisers appeared to be doomed until Rashid lifted them with a late cameo. The Afghanistan leggie returned to pick up three wickets in a deadly four-over spell, effected a brilliant run-out and took two catches to complete an all-round performance and derail Kolkata's surge to the finals. Here are the best moments from the second qualifier at Kolkata. Sunrisers Hyderabad celebrate their win over Kolkata Knight Riders. Sportzpics The Rashid-Uthappa face-off If Kolkata Knight Riders had to stop a pumped-up Rashid, they needed Robin Uthappa to fire. The stylish Kolkata batsman had been in woeful form in the past few matches, but his exemplary record against Rashid Khan, which few can boast of, gave Kolkata hope. Before Friday, Uthappa had faced 31 balls from Rashid, scoring 58 off them at a strike rate of 187.09. The fact that he had never been dismissed by the leggie further bolstered his credentials. Perhaps, the confidence stemming from this result forced Uthappa to play an ugly reverse sweep to Rashid off the first ball he face from him on Friday. Being a pre-meditated shot, Uthappa couldn't read the length and the full ball from Rashid went under his bat and rocked the stumps. What goes around comes around Sunrisers Hyderabad were looking to up the ante through Carlos Brathwaite, but Nitish Rana squashed all such thoughts with a brilliant bit of fielding on the boundary ropes. He dived full length to prevent a boundary and then produced an accurate throw to the ’keeper to catch Brathwaite short of the crease. In Kolkata's innings, Rana walked in at No 3 and appeared in ominous touch much like Brathwaite but suffered a fate similar to what he inflicted in the first innings. Rana nudged Shakib to deep mid-wicket, slipped at the non-striker's end and attempted a risky second run. With Rashid's bullet throw coming in accurately, Rana was caught marginally short of the crease. Four sixes that turned the game Sunrisers Hyderabad seemed to be ambling to a below-par total with the cream of their batting line-up back in the hutch. They needed a final boost from one of Brathwaite or Yusuf Pathan but neither obliged. With his ugly hoicks, Rashid compensated for the two with a brilliant knock studded with four maximums. Piyush Chawla missed a catch at the boundary ropes and parried it over the fence to give the Afghan player a lucky six. He followed it up with a maximum over cover, a shot that put some of their famed batsmen to shame. In the final over from Prasidh Krishna, he whipped one over square leg for yet another six and completed the onslaught with one more in the final ball, smashing a slower ball over long-on. The innings turned on its head in these two overs as Sunrisers raced from 138/6 in 18 overs to 174/7 in 20. Karthik drops a skier, compensates with insane stumping With Wriddhiman Saha in the mood to blindly go at balls after a horrendous start, Shivam Mavi forced a top edge from the batsman that soared into the night sky. Calling for the catch, Dinesh Karthik, with his gloves on, rushed to square leg and dived full length but the ball had swirled away from the Kolkata skipper. The dropped attempt cost Kolkata 30 extra runs as Saha finally managed to break his shackles and resurrect Sunrisers Hyderabad's innings. With memories of a 2014 IPL final knock against Kolkata Knight Riders while he was playing for Kings XI Punjab hovering in the air, Karthik pulled off a brilliant stumping to catch his counterpart behind the stumps short. A googly had Saha fumbling at the crease and an inside edge onto his body landed just outside the leg-stump. Karthik swooped in from behind the stumps and rolled over while breaking the stumps to catch Saha, who had stepped out, short. Narine hammers Bhuvneshwar Kumar Bhuvneshwar Kumar's enticing battle with Sunil Narine turned out to be highlight of the second innings as the West Indian stood undaunted, smashing Bhuvneshwar, one of T20s better bowlers, all around the park. A full toss first up from the Indian seamer was smashed through covers for four by Narine. He followed it up with a clean strike over long-off for six to put the Sunrisers’ new ball bowler under pressure. With Bhuvneshwar targetting his body next ball with a short of a length delivery, Narine slogged across the line, getting an inside edge that raced to square leg for another four. He completed the flurry of runs with a tennis smash over Bhuvneshwar's head for a fourth boundary in succession.
IPL 2018: Dinesh Karthik’s insane stumping, Rashid Khan’s blitzkrieg and other moments from SRH's Qualifier 2 win over KKR
An all-round show from Rashid Khan helped Sunrisers Hyderabad end their four-match slump and beat Kolkata Knight Riders in their backyard at Eden to take them to the finals of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018. Stuck in a rut against Kuldeep Yadav, Sunrisers appeared to be doomed until Rashid lifted them with a late cameo. The Afghanistan leggie returned to pick up three wickets in a deadly four-over spell, effected a brilliant run-out and took two catches to complete an all-round performance and derail Kolkata's surge to the finals. Here are the best moments from the second qualifier at Kolkata. Sunrisers Hyderabad celebrate their win over Kolkata Knight Riders. Sportzpics The Rashid-Uthappa face-off If Kolkata Knight Riders had to stop a pumped-up Rashid, they needed Robin Uthappa to fire. The stylish Kolkata batsman had been in woeful form in the past few matches, but his exemplary record against Rashid Khan, which few can boast of, gave Kolkata hope. Before Friday, Uthappa had faced 31 balls from Rashid, scoring 58 off them at a strike rate of 187.09. The fact that he had never been dismissed by the leggie further bolstered his credentials. Perhaps, the confidence stemming from this result forced Uthappa to play an ugly reverse sweep to Rashid off the first ball he face from him on Friday. Being a pre-meditated shot, Uthappa couldn't read the length and the full ball from Rashid went under his bat and rocked the stumps. What goes around comes around Sunrisers Hyderabad were looking to up the ante through Carlos Brathwaite, but Nitish Rana squashed all such thoughts with a brilliant bit of fielding on the boundary ropes. He dived full length to prevent a boundary and then produced an accurate throw to the ’keeper to catch Brathwaite short of the crease. In Kolkata's innings, Rana walked in at No 3 and appeared in ominous touch much like Brathwaite but suffered a fate similar to what he inflicted in the first innings. Rana nudged Shakib to deep mid-wicket, slipped at the non-striker's end and attempted a risky second run. With Rashid's bullet throw coming in accurately, Rana was caught marginally short of the crease. Four sixes that turned the game Sunrisers Hyderabad seemed to be ambling to a below-par total with the cream of their batting line-up back in the hutch. They needed a final boost from one of Brathwaite or Yusuf Pathan but neither obliged. With his ugly hoicks, Rashid compensated for the two with a brilliant knock studded with four maximums. Piyush Chawla missed a catch at the boundary ropes and parried it over the fence to give the Afghan player a lucky six. He followed it up with a maximum over cover, a shot that put some of their famed batsmen to shame. In the final over from Prasidh Krishna, he whipped one over square leg for yet another six and completed the onslaught with one more in the final ball, smashing a slower ball over long-on. The innings turned on its head in these two overs as Sunrisers raced from 138/6 in 18 overs to 174/7 in 20. Karthik drops a skier, compensates with insane stumping With Wriddhiman Saha in the mood to blindly go at balls after a horrendous start, Shivam Mavi forced a top edge from the batsman that soared into the night sky. Calling for the catch, Dinesh Karthik, with his gloves on, rushed to square leg and dived full length but the ball had swirled away from the Kolkata skipper. The dropped attempt cost Kolkata 30 extra runs as Saha finally managed to break his shackles and resurrect Sunrisers Hyderabad's innings. With memories of a 2014 IPL final knock against Kolkata Knight Riders while he was playing for Kings XI Punjab hovering in the air, Karthik pulled off a brilliant stumping to catch his counterpart behind the stumps short. A googly had Saha fumbling at the crease and an inside edge onto his body landed just outside the leg-stump. Karthik swooped in from behind the stumps and rolled over while breaking the stumps to catch Saha, who had stepped out, short. Narine hammers Bhuvneshwar Kumar Bhuvneshwar Kumar's enticing battle with Sunil Narine turned out to be highlight of the second innings as the West Indian stood undaunted, smashing Bhuvneshwar, one of T20s better bowlers, all around the park. A full toss first up from the Indian seamer was smashed through covers for four by Narine. He followed it up with a clean strike over long-off for six to put the Sunrisers’ new ball bowler under pressure. With Bhuvneshwar targetting his body next ball with a short of a length delivery, Narine slogged across the line, getting an inside edge that raced to square leg for another four. He completed the flurry of runs with a tennis smash over Bhuvneshwar's head for a fourth boundary in succession.
Cairney's first-half strike proved enough to take Fulham back into the Premier League
Cairney's first-half strike proved enough to take Fulham back into the Premier League
Cairney's first-half strike proved enough to take Fulham back into the Premier League
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry looks old and slow. Mitrovic gets above him with ease but flashes his header over. Without wanting to state the bleeding obvious, the next goal is massive here. Villa bossing possession and have the momentum. Grealish pokes it through for Grabban but it's well defended by Odoi. Fulham goal kick. 6:14PM 55 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa have found their route into this match, and it's down their right-hand side. They're manouvering their way round Fredericks with ease, Grealish, Hourihane and Adomah all getting the better with him in recent moves. The crossing is yet to yield anything other than a shot off target but Fulham have been forced to drop back and it's the Brummies looking more likely to score next at the moment. They've had two thirds of possession in the second half. 6:12PM 53 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish close! Adomah again with a decent cross, Fredericks failing to close him down. Grealish on his own in the six yard box, but his header is charged down by Bettinelli. Villa growing into this now, fans have found their voice too. Another Adomah cross from deep, all going through him, but Snodgrass pushes Targett in the head in his attempt to get on the end of it. Fulham free kick. 6:09PM 50 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Adomah again looking to cause problems from the wing, crossing in towards Snodgrass on the far post, but his header is well over. Villa mood: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:07PM 48 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham have some space in front of Villa's back four again. Wherefore art thou, Mile? Kamara tees up Mitrovic, who's free in the box on the right. Slides it across towards Sessegnon, but it's cut out. Think Sessegnon may have been offside anyway. 6:06PM 46 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Aston Villa get this half started, Fulham keeper Bettinelli is late out for kick-off. A warm reception, of sorts, from the Villa fans behind his goal. Brighter start from Villa, Adomah attacking with some vigour down the right. Fulham deal competently with his cross. 6:03PM Meanwhile, on the other side There is another football match taking place today. Yes it's the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid! You can follow all of the build-up with Rob Bagchi by tapping on those words. I must insist that you only consume Rob in a new alongside this one. You won't want to miss this second half. 5:57PM Some stats It's all Fulham, as the numbers demonstrate: Villa vs Fulham | Half time stats 5:52PM Half time verdict Villa will be happy they're only one behind. They started by trying to keep a tight, deep shape but lost concentration after 20 minutes and have looked vulnerable ever since. Fulham, looking more sprightly and better-motivated, can smell blood. Kamara has looked their most obvious source of joy up against a creaking Hutton at left-back, but it's the threat carried by osciallting midfielders Sessegnon, Ciarney and Johansen which has been particularly difficult for Villa to deal with. Steve Bruce is a good enough manager to address these issues at half-time, but you sense another Fulham goal would settle it. 5:49PM HALF TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa ending the half on the ball but not going far with it. Ream steps out of defence to pulverise a clearance into at least the middle tier of the stadium as soon as Elmohamady looks to play an incisive pass. 5:47PM 45 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Two added minutes for his half. A few players looking like they could do with the break. Kamara squatting on his haunches, Johansen down with what looks a painful hip, and limping off the pitch after treatment. Looks like he'll be okay to return. 5:45PM 43 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Near-disaster for Villa! Chester watches a throw, assuming it's dribbling back to Johnstone. The keeper comes miles out of his goal to collect it but stops, seemingly anticipating a clearance from his defender. Meanwhile, Mitrovic loiters with intent. Moments before he nicks in Chester belatedly decides to hook it away. So close to a tap into an empty net for Fulham, shades of the Koscielny-Szczesny League Cup final disaster. The entire Villa defence looks utterly rattled. 5:41PM 39 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Snodgrass looks likely to shoot but instead dinks one over the wall for Grealish to run onto. He's on his own, controls it on this thigh but spoons his shot over the bar. Best chance of the game so far for Villa. 5:40PM 38 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Another foul on Jack Grealish and this time it brings a yellow card. Denis Odoi in the book for a poorly-timed blocking tackle. Free kick from 35 or so yards. Snodgrass standing over it. Here's Cairney scoring the first goal: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:36PM 37 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Uncultured lunge from Alan Hutton, trying to stop Kamra on the right for Fulham. He looked all of his 47 years there. Little comes from the free kick, Targett eventually blasts one over from range. 5:35PM 35 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A better spell for Villa, the first time they've had the ball for a sustained period in Villa's half. Grealish, who was well within his rights to make a bigger meal of that Fredericks stamp than he did, looks to run at Targett. Socks already down by his ankles. I can't lie, liveblog fans, he's looking pretty cool. That's not enough for him to get a telling cross over. 5:33PM 33 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham charge forward at speed, that middle third is all theirs at the moment. It's out to Kamara on the right who crosses well. Terry's header is uncertain and it falls for Sessegnon, in line with the far post. He connects well with his head but it's straight into Johnstone's midriff. 5:31PM 31 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Oof, horrible moment from Fredericks who has very clearly stamped on Grealish right in front of the dugouts. No idea how he has got away with that, looked entirely intentional. Grealish up now, happily and Villa have a free kick out wide. It comes to nothing. 5:29PM 29 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Can confirm that a disappointing minority of Fulham fans have given the rest of their supporters a bad name by bringing their clappers with them. Lifetime worldwide stadium bans all round, please. 5:28PM 26 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Terry leading the enquiry in the Villa defence. They were caught flat and too deep for that goal but Sessegnon deserves enormous credit for sizing up the picture in a moment and picking the perfect pass. Villa need to ride this out for 10 minutes now, Fulham with all the momentum and the crowd distinctly on their side. 5:23PM GOAL!! 23 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 (Cairney) Made by Sessegnon, sidestepping a wild challenged from Hourihane in that same area ceded not long before by Villa, 30 yards from goal, in front of a retreating back four. Sessegnon uses the space and time beautifully, weighting a delicate ball into the box where Cairney has plenty of time and space to guide the ball past Johnstone and into the bottom corner. 5:23PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 A shot, of sorts. The first of the game. Fulham finding a bit more space in front of Villa's back four and Kamara has a pop. Johnstone able to watch it over his bar. He's put through again shortly afterwards by Johansen but can't get the ball under control. 5:21PM 21 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Excitement in the Sky Sports commentary box at a pitchside thermometer which puts the temperature at 96ºF. Think we can all agree that that officially qualifies as a "scorcher". Another no-nonsense tackle on Grealish from Fulham, showing they can mix it as well as pass it to one another 17 times in a row. Look who's here, supporting his beloved Villa: That's the future king of England, and best man for hire. 5:18PM 17 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Grealish picks the ball up in his own half and jinks away from Cairney. He's past him with ease but the Fulham midfielder sticks out a leg and brings down Johnny Haircut. No booking, Bruce apoplectic on the sideline. Looked the right call to me, but what do I know - I am not a qualified referee. 5:17PM 15 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Snodgrass to Adomah again looking dangerous for Villa. They're pressing a little higher now and Johansen nearly comes a cropper as Grealish smells an interception. It's turned over to Snodgrass who nearly puts Adomah in in the area but it's slightly too heavy a pass and out for a goal kick. Fulham taking the keep-ball thing a little too far on that occasion, nearly went awry. Can they not knock it? 5:13PM 12 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 The pattern of the game is set, and it's much as you might have expected. Villa ceding possession and territory to their more artful opponents, but carrying a bit of a threat on the counter. Mitrovic has the edge on Chester so far, the defender bouncing off the large fella from Serbia as the two go up for a high ball. Here's that adorable pre-match pow-wow with the Fulham lads: Credit: ACTION IMAGES 5:10PM 9 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Volume goes up a notch as Sessegnon has his first taste of the ball in a relatively promising position. He works it left towards Cairney, but his cross towards Mitrovic is headed away comfortably by one-time Manchester United disappointment James Chester. In the lead-up to that Chester went through Mitrovic with a heavy tackle from behind. When play stops he's booked by Anthony Taylor. Not ideal. 5:07PM 7 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Early test for Fredericks, who is forced to keep a close eye on Adomah as Snodgrass puts a probing pass into the outside-left channel. The Fulham defender reads it well and is able to usher it out for a goal kick. The move was set up by Jedinak, looking fearsome so far prowling around between Fulham's midfield and Mitrovic, the lone striker. 5:05PM 4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Villa sitting deep early on, not attempting to press Fulham as they hold onto the ball in their own half. All 11 in claret and blue in their own half, in fact. Villa's fans trying to get some whistling going as Fulham hold onto it, but they're being drowned out by the enthusiastic applause of Fulham's support, enjoying their side's passing. At least, I hope it's applause. If those clappers have come to Wembley I will be legitimately livid. 5:03PM 2 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 Jedinak gets tired of Fulham holding onto the ball from kick off and gets an early mild reducer in on Kevin McDonald, the Fulham midfielder. Foul, no card. Fulham look to Fredericks, attacking from full-back on the right, but the pass out to him is long and collected by Johnstone in the Villa goal. 5:01PM 1 min Villa 0 Fulham 0 Fulham do the group hug thing, James Chester looks on unimpressed with hands on hips. Jack Grealish chews gum with a determined look on his face, framed by curtains as ever. Here we go, Fulham kick off. The teams again if you're arriving late: Kick-off 17.00 BST Sky Sports Football / Main Event Aston Villa team: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham team: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. ​ Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 4:58PM One day, this will all be mine Fulham owner Shahid Khan surveying the stadium he hopes to add to his collection of expensive belongings: Credit: AFP 4:57PM The teams are out Several large wavy-circular decorations on the pitch, Kanye West's All Of The Lights blasting out of the PA at unnecessary volume, Alan Mullery shakes the hands of both teams. Believe he once went to Rome to see the Pope? Not sure how that ended. Fulham fans have the bad luck to be at the end of the stadium in which you get the sun in your eyes. Here comes the national anthem. Can confirm they've gone for the UK's. 4:53PM Favourite play-off final moment What's yours? Nominate via email if you'd like: thom.gibbs@telegraph.co.uk I'm a QPR supporter, so it will not surprise you to learn that this is mine: With apologies to my wife, I think that might just be my favourite moment of all-time, play-off final or otherwise. 4:50PM Is this game getting worse? During my childhood the Championship (or equivalent) play-off final felt like one the of the most exciting days of the year. The matches seemed reliably madcap, the football reckless, the weather gorgeous: loads of fun. Leicester 3 Swindon 4 in 1993, Bolton 4 Reading 3 in 1995 and of course Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 in 1998 stick out. The Sasa Ilic game especially cemented this match as a must-watch. It has remained so for me, but looking back at the results in finals since the switch to the current format in 1989, this game has been pretty ropey for most of this millennium: Play-off final goals | Total goals scored in finals since 1989 The last proper thriller for my money was Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2 in 2010, and even that didn’t have any second half goals: What does it all mean? I would suggest that the ever-increasing financial imperative for winning this match has reduced it as a spectacle. Also, perhaps, we’re due a classic? 4:46PM Taylor clan gets behind the Villa Top indoctrination work from Ian Taylor, who despite last playing for Villa 15 years ago has successfully convinced his children to get his name printed on the back of their shirts: It's here!!! Come on you Villa boys!!!! #VTWD!!! pic.twitter.com/VMDlmW79I6— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) May 26, 2018 4:41PM Fulham heroes pledge their support Not even the SHOUTING OF JIMMY BULLARD can ruin the loveliness of this Fulham video: �� Some familiar faces have been in touch to wish the boys the best of luck!#FFC#FULFORCEpic.twitter.com/j2xiLVGXCX— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) May 25, 2018 4:38PM A very modern career Sam Johnstone, in goal for Villa this afternoon, has been a Manchester United player since 2011. In that time he has played in a grand total of zero competitive games for them. Here's his footballing life to date: Sam Johnstone's career His Man Utd contract expires this summer, perhaps one day he will know the joy of playing a football match for the team he is employed by? 4:33PM There he is... It's Fulham mascot Billy the Badger! Credit: PA What do you mean you've never heard of him? What do you mean you don't like badgers? What do you mean "cull"?! Where's your play-off final spirit? 4:27PM Who are you backing? Express your opinion with the power of a mouse click. Or, far more likely, a tap of your powerful finger: For those interested in these sorts of things you can get about 6/4 on favourites Fulham to win it in 90 minutes, Villa are about 11/5 with most bookies. I quite like 2/1 for the draw at full time. 4:21PM “We can park the bus if we need to” Sam Dean went to see Fulham’s manager Slavisa Jokanovic on Friday and he had this to say, on his team’s reputation for exciting football: “It is not a question about aesthetics. It is not a question of showing how we play very good football. We know it is only important to win the game. My team will try to perform well and try to find our style to have more opportunity to win the game. If we need for the last 15 minutes to park the bus on the 18-yard box, we are going to do it. But we cannot do it at the beginning because this way cannot guarantee us to be successful." More here, from both Sam and Fulham’s angriest Serbian man, in a surprisingly crowded field. 4:10PM What today is all about Money, of course. "This game is life-changing" Those the words of Australia’s favourite bearded central midfielder Mile Jedinak, as reported by our Midlands football authority John Percy. Things could go quite awry for Villa if they fail to win this afternoon. There are a striking number of key players on loan deals who would be unlikely to stick around (Lewis Grabban, Sam Johstone and Robert Snodgrass), another group who would likely leave (John Terry, James Chester and Jack Grealish 2.0 - return of the hairstyle), plus Nigel Kennedy is in danger of really kicking off. No-one wants to see that. Similar danger of course for Fulham, whose parachute payments expire next year. Hard to imagine Jokanovic and Sessegnon sticking around for another crack next year. Swiss Ramble has done some more maths: The financial difference between winning and losing today's Championship play-off final is £155m for Fulham and £143m for Aston Villa #FFC#AVFCpic.twitter.com/JplOu0m8TQ— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) May 26, 2018 4:02PM Walk this Way Olympic Way* looking tasty this afternoon, with some fabulous segregation in force - Villa fans being shunted off to the left and Fulham to the right: *Please note, this liveblog will maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards incorrect road nomenclature. It's Olympic Way. Not Wembley. Sorry. [not actually sorry]. Teams are in, here you go: Aston Villa: Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak; Snodgrass, Hourihane, Grealish, Adomah; Grabban Subs: Whelan, Hogan, Bree, Onomah, Bjarnason, Kodjia, Bunn. Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen; Sessegnon, Kamara; Mitrovic. Subs: Rui Fonte, Ayite, Norwood, Piazon, Christie, Kalas, Button. Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) 3:34PM Hello friends Good afternoon liveblog fans, please take a moment to ensure you are appropriately prepared for the Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham at Wembley. It’s the £900m game (actual value of Premier League promotion may differ from stated amount) at the £900m stadium (actual sale of stadium to man with eccentric moustache may fail to materialise) and I thank you for joining me here on this, the £900m liveblog (this figure is correct). It’s London vs Birmingham under the arch, with both teams playing in their first ever play-off final. Fulham have fallen at the semi-final stage three times previously. Villa, meanwhile, are in the play-offs for the first time in their history. What does it all mean? Probably nothing for the players, Ryan Sessegnon wasn’t alive for two of Fulham’s previous play-off campaigns (1989 and 98). The fans, though, will be in a state of heightened nervous exhilaration. Fulham’s have never visited the re-made Wembley, Villa’s previous visit was an FA Cup final when this guy was in charge: Here's Tim Sherwood opening a door in the most Tim Sherwood way to open a door ever - https://t.co/Y5g6kAH8Lw— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) July 6, 2015 Fulham are narrow favourites which seems about right if you were paying attention to the semi-finals. Villa’s passage to today’s game was nervy, holding on for a goalless draw against Middlesbrough which maintained their 1-0 aggregate lead. They dominated that game, in fact Boro didn’t manage a shot on target in the second leg, but it is possible to read too much into a defensive performance against a team managed by Tony Pulis. Slavisa Jokanovic’s team will ask slightly different questions than Middlesbrough. “How do you fancy keeping this wounded Serbian powerhouse quiet while also paying attention to two dangerous, pacy wide players?” instead of “Have you ever had a parmo?”. If there’s such a thing as play-off momentum it will be coursing through the shared veins of Fulham this afternoon, their 2-0 victory to see off Derby at Craven Cottage was everything you’d want from a play-off semi. Attacking, energised, and gutsy. This final looks likely to be one of defence vs attack. You’d expect John Terry and James Chester to fare better against Mitrovic than Derby managed, and Adomah is a threat out wide for Fulham’s slightly suspect full-backs. You’d also expect Sessegnon to thrive on this stage and confirm the suspicion he’s a player destined for far bigger things than the Championship. It has at least half of the makings of a play-off final classic and we’ll be with you throughout all of it. Team news, build-up and at least seven mentions of Bobby Zamora to follow, please stay tuned.
Fulham win promotion to Premier League after beating Aston Villa in Championship play-off final
Result: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 Having passed their way to the brink of the Premier League, earning all the praise that comes with being the Championship’s prettiest team, Fulham were forced to show their nasty side when it mattered most. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side snapped into challenges and cracked bone upon bone. They ran, tackled, blocked and cleared. Reduced to 10 men for much of the second half, they abandoned everything that had taken them this far, everything that had carried them to a 23-game unbeaten run this year, and simply ground it out. It was not the Fulham we have grown used to this season. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. The riches of the Premier League, which will be at least £160 million, are theirs to savour, and their concerns over keeping this side together next year will have been washed away by the champagne that flowed last night. There is no denying that a team of this quality deserved to be promoted, although Aston Villa and Steve Bruce will feel their second-half showing merited more. Villa chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute strike, but they were the dominant side and, in Jack Grealish, possessed the game’s standout player. Fulham's Premier League survival guide There was a lack of quality around Grealish, though, and Bruce will rue the absence of clarity in attack that prevented him from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. It would have been doubly special for the Villa manager, who lost both his parents in the space of 88 days earlier this year, but the play-off final remains the most brutal of fixtures. And so, when the final whistle blew, it was Jokanovic who celebrated, not Bruce. It was Fulham who return to the Premier League, not Villa. Hours earlier, both sides had arrived at Wembley knowing how much there was to gain from victory, but also how much they could lose in defeat. For Fulham, there was the fear that this wonderfully technical group of players – and their manager – will be feasted upon by Premier League vultures this summer. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images Villa, meanwhile, prepared for the so-called ‘richest game in football’ in the knowledge that another year in the Championship would result in huge financial pain and, potentially, a transfer embargo. Considering the stakes, it was no surprise that the opening minutes were defined by anxiety, caginess and a reluctance to commit men forward. Fulham had nearly all of the ball, but they remained a long way back from the opposition goal and hardly posed an attacking threat. Still, Villa were being made to do plenty of running in the Wembley heat. Slowly Fulham began to feel emboldened by their dominance of possession. Aboubakar Kamara looped a volley onto the roof of the net before, just a few minutes later, Jokanovic’s side took a deserved lead. Yet again, it was Ryan Sessegnon, their teenage prodigy, who created the defining moment. The 18-year-old, Fulham’s top scorer, turned creator by skipping past one challenge and slipping a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. Tom Cairney puts Fulham ahead Credit: getty images Sessegnon soon had an opportunity to double the lead, but headed straight at Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone after he had eluded a back-line marshalled by 37-year-old John Terry. Fulham continued to slip through the gears, with Ryan Fredericks, the rocket-fuelled right-back, then bursting in behind but failing to control Cairney’s measured pass. This dominance was no doubt expected by Jokanovic, but Bruce would surely have hoped for more intensity from his experienced side. Villa’s only avenue of attack seemed to be through the slick-haired Grealish, who had spent much of the half on the floor as the Fulham players took turns hacking him down. Grealish did produce one threatening moment, when he darted in behind the Fulham wall from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, but blazed his bouncing effort well over the bar and into the sea of white behind the Fulham goal. The 22-year-old went close after the break, too, but headed over from Albert Adomah’s cross. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images It was the opening that Villa had craved, however, and the unshackled Grealish had suddenly seen more of the ball in 10 second-half minutes than all of the first half. An electrifying run took him past no fewer than four white shirts before his stabbed shot was saved, while he then claimed a penalty after a powerful strike was blocked by the body of Odoi. Fulham had their chance to regroup and reboot. Sessegnon played in Stefan Johansen, who blasted over, and then Kamara looked for a penalty under a challenge from Alan Hutton. But their revival was undermined by Odoi’s red card, which was rightly awarded for a second bookable hacking of Grealish. Villa pulsated, pushing forward as Fulham groaned and moaned under the pressure. Despite the heat, and despite the stakes, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back. Team details Aston Villa (4-1-4-1) Johnstone; Elmohamady (Kodjia 77), Chester, Terry, Hutton; Jedinak, (Onomah, 77); Snodgrass, Hourihane (Hogan 82), Grealish, Adomah; Grabban. Subs Bunn (g), Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason. Booked Chester, Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton. Fulham (4-3-3) Bettinelli; Fredericks (Christie 83), Odoi, Ream, Targett; Cairney, McDonald, Johansen (Norwood 72); Kamara (Kalas 77), Mitrovic, Sessegnon. Subs Button (g), Fonte, Ayite, Piazon. Sent off Odoi. Booked Odoi, Kamara. Referee Anthony Taylor (Cheshire). 7:16PM An excellent play-off final The record books (let's face it - Wikipedia) will show this was another tight and nervy Championship play-off final. A 1-0 win clinches promotion for the winning side for the ninth time in the last 14 of these games. That does little justice to an entertaining and full-blooded match. Both teams looked to attack and there was little of the cagey negative football anticipated. Fulham deserved the win, offering more going forward and profiting from an excellent first half which could have brought more than Tom Cairney's goal. Their steel to hang on in the second half, as energy waned and they lost a centre-back to a red card, will serve them well in the league above. As will an exciting core of young players. Cairney's claim afterwards that he's not been fit all season is astonshing given his influence in this campaign. Sessegnon will surely be convinced to give it a go for at least another year, and maybe even Mitrovic will begin to look like a top-flight striker in time. Villa face a less certain future. John Terry's face afterwards suggested a man who's had enough footballing disappointment to last a lifetime. The MLS may begin to look mighty tempting. Hutton and Jedinak were exposed too often, but there is enormous promise in Jack Grealish, if they can hang onto him. Attention switches now to the Champions League final. Follow Real Madrid vs Liverpool live with Rob Bagchi. That's all from this blog. Thanks for your company, I'll talk to you again soon. 7:06PM Trophy time Here are Fulham, looking delighted: 7:04PM Fulham on their way up the steps John Terry looking sad on the pitch. Try not to laugh. 7:02PM Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon are next up Match-winner Cairney "A lot of people gave us a bit of stick but football won today, football won. It's been a hard season for me, I've been playing all season not fully fit. I've had to miss a lot of training sessions to get through games, the manager said he needed me so I've played." Sess: "It's been a fantastic season and to top it off for promotion, there's nothing better than that." 6:59PM Mitrovic speaks on the pitch. "Unbelievable, a dream come true. We have brought this club back to where it should be and we're very proud. "I'm so tired right now, like never in my life, I swear. I can't feel my legs." Sensational 6:55PM FULL TIME Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham hold on, they're back in the Premier League! 6:54PM 90+5 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Villa win it back. One last attack. Pumped forward. Fulham head it away. 6:54PM 90+4 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Ball is not where Villa would like it to be. Fulham have a throw in line with the Villa box, and now Christie heads towards the corner flag where he will look to stay. Not for long, it's out for a Villa goal kick. But Mitoriv has it shortly afterwards and tries to do similar at the other corner flag. Snodgrass, losing his temper, kicks Sessegnon as he arrives to help out. Free kick for Fulham, a minute left. 6:52PM 90+3 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Grealish storms into the area from the right-hand flank but Targett stays strong. Grealish goes down as he and the ball pass the byline. Half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away. 6:51PM 90+1 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We'll have five added minutes. Oddly, it's become a bit flatter since the red card. Villa seemingly losing their mojo a little. Adomah puts a cross in from deep but Hogan heads it harmlessly wide You feel they'll get a chance, though. 6:49PM 90 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Wide from Snodgrass. Hard to tell how wide, given Sky choose to stick with the Spidercam shot from behind the free kick for its duration. Unacceptable. 6:48PM 89 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Christie pushing the rules right to their limit, with an arm round Adomah's waist like a tactless teenager getting too friendly with his date in the cinema. It's effective, though, Adomah forced into a backwards pass. But Villa now have a free kick, and it's in Snodgrass shooting range... 6:47PM 87 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Hutton leaves one on Mitrovic as the Fulham player looks to reach a throw-in. No need for that. Booking for Hutton, free kick and momentum-killing respite for Fulham. Here's Odoi's moment of sadness: Credit: PA ...which followed his moment of madness (refresh this page to see that as our new main image above these words) 6:44PM 85 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 We've entered the final act of this 90 minutes. Fulham forced into a bus-parking now, two banks of four sat very deep and you feel we're now going to have about 10 minutes of unerring Villa pressure. Onomah transports the ball across the edge of the box but his attempted shot is charged down. 6:42PM 83 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 That'll do for Hourihane, Scott Hogan on to replace him. Christie on for Fredericks for Fulham. Both teams out of subs. 6:40PM 81 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Excellent tackle from Norwood, sliding in with a large bag full of commitment to snuff out a shot from Hourihane which had every chance. The Villa player has stayed down in the box but there was nothing wrong with the challenge. A small breather for everyone now, it's been a wonderfully frantic second half. 6:37PM 79 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Jedinak, not at the races today, rugby tackles Mitrovic as he gets past him just inside Villa's half. He's booked. Another sub for Fulham, it's the dangerous Kamara going off to be replaced by centre-back Tomas Kalas. Kamara booked on his way off for taking too long. Villa make a couple of changes too change too, it's Kodjia on for Elmohamaday, Onomah on for recent yellow card recipient Jedinak. Here's a very angry Fulham side trying to hurt Jack Grealish: Credit: GETTY IMAGES 6:34PM 75 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Despite the numerical disadvantage it's Fulham on the attack. Crossed in for Mitrovic who controls on his knee but, leaning back blasts it over the bar. A decent chance squandered. McDonald has dropped back to partner Ream in central defence after Odoi's dismissal. 6:33PM 73 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 You know, I think there was an unlikely 1-0 triumph in this match from a team from west London reduced to 10 men once before... 6:29PM RED CARD! 70 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Odoi sent off for Fulham, a second yellow. Ridiculous foul, Grealish getting the better of him and Odoi attempts some sort of mid-air kidney removal operation, sticking the boot into the foppish midfielder's side. Silly foul. Johansen also struggling for Fulham, limping off the pitch with the assistance of a physio. Before all of this excitement Kamara broke into Villa's box at ferocious speed and cut the ball back, falling to the ground. Penalty? No, he slipped. But Jedinak also slid in on him comedically late with a sort of bonus foul. That wasn't given either. 6:29PM 68 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Big miss for Fulham! They flow forward at speed, Kamara with a disguised run to open up a gap. Sessegnon tees up Johansen in plenty of space about 20 yards from goal. He takes an arguably needless touch but hammers his effort a touch too hard. It's over. That should have been on target at least 6:26PM 67 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Miotrovic a touch disappointing today. Fulham could do with him backing into Chester or Terry and holding the ball up to ease a bit of pressure. Instead he's tried to run at them a few times with little joy. Fulham have a corner after a McDonald shot deflects over, but it's headed wide. 6:24PM 64 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 A scuffle. Stemming from a dreadful challenge from Grealish, late, reckless and dangerous to slide in on Johansen. Several players from both sides steaming in but Martin Atkinson had his yellow card drawn while Grealish was still sliding. Hourihane gets him out of harm's way. 6:21PM 62 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Glorious from Grealish! He glides snake-hipped past three Fulham defenders after picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and briefly looks like he's going to join Dean Windass play-off final goal hall of fame. His shot is well saved by Bettinelli. Villa keep coming, pressure growing on Fulham. 6:19PM 60 mins Aston Villa 0 Fulham 1 Fulham working it horizontally at speed, ball never quite in anyone's control. Drops invitingly for McDonald. "Hit it!" I tell the television, impotently. He does, but it's a small block of flats over the bar. 6:17PM 58 mins Aston