Aston Villa

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Soccer Football - Championship Play-Off Final - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 26, 2018 Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon celebrates promotion to the Premier League with the trophy Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
Championship Play-Off Final - Fulham vs Aston Villa
Soccer Football - Championship Play-Off Final - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 26, 2018 Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon celebrates promotion to the Premier League with the trophy Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
Soccer Football - Championship Play-Off Final - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 26, 2018 Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon celebrates promotion to the Premier League Action Images via Reuters/Tony O'Brien
Championship Play-Off Final - Fulham vs Aston Villa
Soccer Football - Championship Play-Off Final - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 26, 2018 Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon celebrates promotion to the Premier League Action Images via Reuters/Tony O'Brien
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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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, they tackled, they blocked and they 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 gritty, it was desperate. It was not the usual Fulham. But it was, in the end, enough to carry them all the way back to the promised land. Just weeks after their owner, Shahid Khan, had announced his intention to buy Wembley, Fulham swept into the national stadium and delivered a victory that guarantees the club at least £160m, as well as everything else that comes with being a Premier League side. Top-flight status will be theirs to savour once more, and Fulham’s concerns over keeping this exciting, gifted side together next season will have been washed away by the champagne that popped on the Wembley pitch. It felt fitting that it was Tom Cairney, the club captain, who scored the clinching goal against an Aston Villa side that took too long to rise to the occasion. It also felt appropriate that Cairney’s strike was created by Ryan Sessegnon, the teenage prodigy who was once again at the centre of the game’s defining moment. Fulham's Premier League survival guide “We showed we can be solid,” Jokanovic said. “We showed we can be organised and fight all together. We showed the personality, we showed the quality.” There can be no denying that Fulham have merited this, and it will be fascinating to see how this cohort of technicians copes with the Premier League. Yet Villa will feel aggrieved not to have found the net in the second half, when the brilliant Jack Grealish romped his way through the Fulham midfield at will. Steve Bruce’s side chased the ball in the first half, then chased the game after Cairney’s goal, but were dominant after the break. The dismissal of Denis Odoi looked to have cleared the path for a comeback, but Bruce was left rueing an absence of clarity in attack. Grealish did not have enough support and that lack of class, as much as anything Fulham produced, is what prevented Bruce from securing a record fifth promotion to the Premier League. Fulham's Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic in the party mood Credit: afp Victory 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 brutally unforgiving of fixtures. “In the first half we were too deep,” said Bruce. “Too respectful. We did not do enough and that’s disappointing. But let’s not forget that we are Aston Villa. A proud club. A big club. We will try to move forward.” The question will be how far they will be able to progress considering the financial constraints that will be placed on the club next season. There is even the possibility of a transfer embargo. A summer of unease awaits at Villa Park. “We dust ourselves down and accept defeat,” said Bruce. “Yes, it’s going to be difficult but we have done it this year. We have gone close but not close enough.” These were the sort of doubts that were always going to hover over the loser last night. As ever with the play-off final, there was almost as much to lose in defeat as there was to gain in victory. Marcus Bettinelli and Kevin McDonald celebrate victory Credit: getty images It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the opening minutes here 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 until the 20th minute. When the first chance came, through a looping Aboubakar Kamara effort, it was almost immediately followed by the goal. Sessegnon twisted past a challenge in midfield, then slipped a weighted pass through to the unchallenged Cairney, who rolled a calm finish into the far corner. “Tom is fantastic,” Jokanovic said. “He showed the personality to bring this team into the Premier League.” 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. As an illustration of Sessegnon’s youth, it felt notable that Terry had made his professional debut in 1998, two years before the Fulham winger had been born. Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (right) squares up with Aleksandar Mitrovic Credit: getty images Fulham were in control, but Grealish was beginning to threaten. At one stage it seemed as if the Fulham players were taking turns in hacking the Villa playmaker, and Ryan Fredericks was perhaps fortunate the referee had not seen a stamp on Grealish’s thigh. “There were big decisions that went against us,” Bruce said. After the break, Grealish began to play at his own pace. He was briefly untouchable, and went close to an equaliser after a snaking run through four white shirts. He also claimed two penalties and forced the second yellow for Odoi, who planted his studs in Grealish’s chest as Villa gained momentum. But Villa needed quality that never arrived. As the pressure grew, the white wall held firm. Fulham are back in the big time. 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.