Caltex Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak and his Aston Villa teammates have suffered heartbreak in the English Championship play-off final, with Fulham winning promotion to the Premier League.
In front of a packed house at Wembley Stadium on Sunday morning AEST, Fulham’s Tom Cairney scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win for Fulham, who return to the top flight to end a four-year absence.
With Jedinak starting as the deepest Aston Villa midfield, it was once again a team jam-packed with experienced players.
Seven of Steve Bruce’s first XI were 30 or older, yet it was the youth of Fulham’s Ryan Sessengon – the 18-year-old who is one of English football’s hottest young prospects – who undid Villa in the 23rdminute.
A precise defence-splitting pass from Sessengon found captain Cairney in the box, who opened up to finish first time on his left foot across goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
As the first half come towards its close, Jedinak made a crucial covering challenge in the box after his defence was again caught out, recovering back to pinch the ball off Ryan Fredericks as he looked to cut inside and shoot.
Aston Villa struggled to create scoring opportunities, with just two shots on target over the entire 90 minutes, despite Fulham being reduced to 10-men midway through the second half.
Their best chance fell to youngster Jack Grealish, who got on the end of Albert Adomah’s cross from the left, heading over after Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli came out of his goal in a failed attempt to punch the ball clear.
Grealish was also on the receiving end of a wild 70thminute challenge from Denis Odoi which saw the Fulham centre back earn a second yellow card.
But as Fulham played out the game with 10-men, and Steve Bruce removed Jedinak soon after in place of attacking midfielder Josh Onomah, the London-based side clung on to earn a spot back in England’s top flight.
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