Aston Villa through to Championship play-off final after goalless draw against Middlesbrough
Aston Villa have qualified for the Championship play-off final after a goalless draw against Middlesbrough at Villa Park.
Boro knew they needed to score after losing the first leg 1-0 but failed to even get a shot on target until the 87th minute.
Villa, who finished seven points above Boro in the league, were the better side and Lewis Grabban could have extended the aggregate lead on a number of occasions.
The home side created the first opening of the match six minutes in but Jack Grealish’s shot was blocked before Lewis Grabban’s effort was stopped by Adam Clayton.
Conor Hourihane nearly gave Villa the lead four minutes later when he charged down a clearance from Boro goalkeeper Darren Randolph but the ball bounced wide.
Former Boro winger Albert Adomah was next to cause problems but, after cutting in from the right, he laid it off to Hourihane who shot straight at Randolph.
James Chester dragged the ball wide from a corner five minutes before the break, and Britt Assombalonga did well to get past the Villa defence at the other end but was eventually crowded out in the penalty area.
Boro still failed to threaten and Besic fired wide from the edge of the area.
The clock kept ticking by and Grabban thought he had put the tie to bed with 30 minutes remaining. A low cross came in from the left and Grabban fired towards the near post but Randolph pulled off a wonderful save to keep the score level on the night.
Boro then nearly got caught out by a long ball but Grabban shanked a shot from the left of the area past the far post.
It was Villa who looked the most dangerous in the closing stages of the match, and Grabban forced Randolph into another good save. This time, the keeper dived to tip a long-range effort over the bar. Adomah then curled the ball wide.
Randolph kept his side in the tie once again in the 74th minute to tip a Grealish curling shot round the left post.
Even with the introductions of Patrick Bamford and Rudy Gestede, Middlesbrough failed to threaten. Besic, once again, missed the target from range.
Fabio, also off the Boro bench, nearly found the head of Bamford but his cross was overhit slightly and the ball rolled out for a goal kick.
Boro finally got a shot on target in the 87th minute when Sam Johnstone came rushing out. Adama Traore tried to lob the ball past the goalkeeper but he stuck his arm out to stop the shot. Johnstone was a yard outside the area, though.
Free kick given, but the keeper escaped a red card. Stuart Downing came inches away from levelling but the ball bounced off the crossbar.
Fabio had a good chance snuffed out by the Villa defence in stoppage time and the clock ran down to confirm Villa’s victory.
Villa will play Fulham in the play-off final on Saturday, May 26, after the London club beat Derby County 2-0 on Monday.