EFL Championship play-off second leg
Leeds United 2 Derby County 4 (3-4 on aggregate)
Another week, another stunning comeback, and while Derby County’s 4-2 defeat of Leeds United won’t make quite the same global headlines as Liverpool and Tottenham managed last week in their Champions League heroics, the Rams’ fans are on top of the world this morning.
Derby’s reward for overturning a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of their Championship play-off is a Wembley final date with Aston Villa on 27 May for the last spot in next season’s Premier League.
“The players have done it with their work rate through the year but we’re not there yet,” declared Derby manager Frank Lampard.
“We’ll be underdogs again at Wembley, and I’m a bit worried because I watched Villa do this last night, but our players deserve a moment.”
Derby were underdogs when they ran out at Elland Road on Wednesday evening with Leeds – who finished with nine points more than their Midlands rivals in the regular season – defending a one-goal advantage from the first leg.
The hosts got off to the best possible start when Stuart Dallas scored midway during the first half to extend their aggregate lead to 2-0.
After 16 years outside the top flight, the Leeds faithful began to believe they were finally heading back to the promised land of the Premier League. But an inspired tactical choice from Lampard turned the tie on its head as Jack Marriott was introduced at the expense of midfielder Duane Holmes just before half-time.
A minute later Marriott scored after a mix-up in the Leeds defence and Mason Mount made it 2-1 to the visitors on the night with a goal just after the restart. Harry Wilson then added a third from the penalty spot on the hour mark.
Leeds, who had won the three previous meetings between the two sides this season by an aggregate of 7-1, fought back with a goal of their own to make the aggregate score 3-3 but then their defender Gaetano Berardi was sent off for a wild challenge on Bradley Johnson on 78 minutes.
Derby capitalised on the man advantage with Marriott scoring the decisive goal five minutes from time to send the Rams into the play-off final.
“I’m really proud of my players,” said Lampard. “I know what it’s like as a player, but the pressure is even more intense as a manager. Getting to Wembley the way we did, coming back in that way, is right up there with anything I’ve achieved in football.”
A return to Chelsea?
The win was also sweet revenge for January’s “spygate” incident, when Leeds were fined £200,000 after manager Marcelo Bielsa admitting sending spies to monitor Derby in training.
Mason Mount referenced the incident on a social media post, writing, “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with W”, but Lampard was more diplomatic when asked about the scandal.
“We weren’t crying over the spying incident, I haven’t thought about that in a long time,” said Lampard, who is now being linked with a return to Chelsea to replace Maurizio Sarri.