Aston Villa 0-0 Middlesbrough Six Things: Villans make Wembley

Terry was outstanding for Villa –

Aston Villa have reached the Championship play-off final thanks to a 1-0 aggregate semi-final win over Middlesbrough, which was confirmed by a 0-0 home draw in the second leg. Here’s six things from the game.

Boro’s missing sense of identity

Tony Pulis’ sides typically prioritize a clean sheet, so a situation in which they had to score was a test of their tactical flexibility. Their forward play though consisted only of hopeful balls into key man Adama Traore and while his trademark runs succeeded in getting Middlesbrough further up the pitch as the half when on, there was a lack of thought as to how to convert those runs into clear cut chances. Midfielders Jonny Howson, Muhamed Besic and Adam Clayton showed little desire to break into the box to support Britt Assombalonga, who was asked to compete in vain for aerial balls with John Terry.

Valiant Villans

Terry was colossal at the back alongside James Chester, who volleyed off-target in one of the home side’s better first half openings. Mile Jedinak, who also pulled his weight in the opposition box, battled superbly in front of the back-four, who were also protected by disciplined wide men, Robert Snodgrass and Albert Adomah.

Adomah outshines Adama

Traore might have hoped to haunt his old employers after the break but surprisingly, Villa attacked with the most intent. Jack Grealish, whose canny runs had been key to relieving pressure, released Adomah down the left on numerous occasions. On 59 minutes, the ex-Boro winger crossed for Lewis Grabban, who beat Ben Gibson to the near-post but was denied by a point-blank stop from Darren Randolph. Traore tried to make things happen for Boro but a combination of a poor end product and a lack of movement around him made this a forgettable evening.

Zero shots on target

It took Pulis until the 67th minute to introduce striker Patrick Bamford, who had made an impressive impact from the bench in the first leg; the man he replaced though was Britt Assombalonga, highlighting a reluctance to field two up top. Even when Rudy Gestede came on for the uninspiring Howson shortly after, Bamford moved to the left, which changed little for a team that incredibly, failed to hit the target despite the circumstances. Had Stewart Downing’s 88th-minute free-kick been an inch lower than the crossbar, extra-time would have offered a scarcely deserved reprieve for Boro, who narrowly survived many of Villa’s second half breakaways.

Teessiders staying put

Middlesbrough will be in the Championship next season and based on their performance tonight, it is where they deserve to be. Under both Garry Monk and Pulis, it has felt like they have been carried by expensive individuals and haven’t attacked as a coherent unit. Next season, that must change.

Villa reach the final

The Midlanders will make their first trip to Wembley in three years and are one win away from a return to the Premier League. They will be outsiders against an impressive Fulham side, but those who want to back them can download betting apps here on any android device. Villa certainly deserve their place in the final: since Jedinak put them in front at the Riverside, they have managed the tie expertly.