Fulham and Aston Villa went head-to-head for a place in the Premier League and the riches that go along with it as they met in the promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday. In the end, Fulham came out victorious with a 1-0 win thanks to Tom Cairney's goal in the first half.
The first few minutes began as predicted, with Aston Villa implementing its strong defensive unit against the creative Fulham, looking to break through the wings. A few early fouls from Steve Bruce's side showed how physical Villa would be.
The physicality kept going as James Chester fouled Aleksandar Mitrovic just outside the box making it the first booking of the day.
Fulham, as expected, controlled most of the possession but finding little room to create any meaningful chances while Villa gave the ball away too much while lookin for its lone striker. There was dangerous moment in the 14th minute when Fulham gave away the ball carelessly outside the box, and Snodgrass looked for Albert Adomah but couldn't find the right pass.
In the 19th minute there was a call for a penalty on Conor Hourihane but it was way too soft to be called.
In the 20th minute, Tom Cairney picked up a great ball from Ryan Sessegnon and made it 1-0 to Fulham.
In the 29th minute, Jack Grealish, who kept getting fouled in the first half, won a free-kick for his team in a dangerous area but Fulham cleared it with ease. Thanks to a cross from the roght hand side in the 31st minute, Ryan Sessegnon headed an attempt but it went straight into the hands of Sam Johnstone.
Villa searched for the equalizer but Fulham stood firm as the minutes closed in for the break. Grealis, once again, was brought down in the 37th minute and Denis Odoi received a yellow for bringing down the attacking midfielder. In the free-kick, Robert Snodgrass chipped it to Grealish who could only put it over the bar.
Fulham kept attacking the right hand side thanks to Ryan Fredericks's pace but Villa held on to keep it 1-0 at the half.
The second half started brightly as Fulham countered after a failed Grealish run with Mitrovic looking for a ball in the six-yard box but Villa cleared away. Better from Villa, however, as Adomah crossed a good ball from the left hand side but to no success. Another great cross from Adomah found Grealish but the young talent could only head it over the bar.
Villa once again threatened with another cross from the left, this time, Hourihane looking for Grabban, but again, it was just off the mark. One thing was for sure, Steve Bruce's side were much better since the first half. In the 59th minute, Jack Grealish pulled off a moment of magic as he dribbled past three defenders to enter the box, only for his shot to be blocked.
A call for a penalty was denied in the 61st minute, as Villa kept pushing. Grealish received a yellow in the 62nd minute after an awful challenge on Cairney. He was lucky to stay on the pitch.
By the 65th, 20 fouls had been committed, 10 for each team.
A great opportunity came for Fulham in the 67th minute, as Johansen picked up the ball from Ryan Sessegnon but he could not properly connect. Just before the 70th, Odoi fouls Grealish once again, received his second booking, meaning Fulham were forced to make changes with 10 men.
Things kept heating up as Jedinak fould Mitrovic in the 75th.
Villa, now with Jonathan Kodjia and Josh Onomah on the pitch, pushed for a goal as the latter found Hourihane for a shot in the box but a great block denied the midfielder, thus injuring him in the process. Alan Hutton received a yellow in the 86th minute after catching Mitrovic, making it seven yellow cards.
Snodgrass attempted a free-kick from a good spot but it could only go wide as Fulham inched closer to the Premier League. The late moments game Fulham a chance to waste time and with it, the Londoners were back in the Premier League thanks to a strong, solid performance.
Stay tuned here for live updates and highlights of goals and key plays from throughout the match (refresh for most recent updates).
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Wolverhampton and Cardiff City will also be joining the Premier League next season, and they'll hope for the same fate enjoyed by the previous set of promoted teams. Huddersfield Town, Brighton and Newcastle all stayed up and are assured of another season in the top flight.