Fulham reaches playoff final

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Fulham players celebrate after the Championship Playoff match against Derby County at Craven Cottage in London Monday. — Reuters

LONDON — Fulham beat Derby County 2-0 (2-1 aggregate) at Craven Cottage Monday to move into the final of the Championship playoffs where it will play Aston Villa or Middlesbrough.

Second half goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Denis Odoi earned Fulham the victory as it seeks a return to the Premier League from which it was relegated from in 2014.

Derby has now missed out in the playoffs three times in the past five seasons.

The playoff final will be held at Wembley Stadium on May 26. Villa host Middlesbrough Tuesday and lead 1-0 from the first leg.

Fulham attacked from the outset but Derby keeper Scott Carson frustrated it throughout the first half with a series of fine saves.

A one-handed effort kept out a strong header from Fulham’s Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and Carson was at his best again to keep out a powerful drive from Aboubakar Kamara.

But Slavisa Jokanovic’s side finally got reward for the efforts two minutes after the interval when 17-year-old Sessegnon showed great composure to drive home a left-foot shot from inside the area.

The decisive goal came in the 66th minute when Belgian Odoi beat Carson with a brilliantly angled header from a corner.

Fulham head to Wembley for the first time since they lost the FA Cup final to West Ham in 1975.

“This club needs this kind of happiness,” said Jokanovic, “After 43 years we will play at Wembley and it is an important achievement for us.

“We deserve this victory and a chance to reach the Premier League. The players showed great belief and confidence and it is credit to my players,” he said.

Derby boss Gary Rowett felt his team had been too nervous.

“I think our composure let us down tonight, we made far too many mistakes on the ball, we looked a bit edgy to be honest,” he said.

“They outplayed us in the second-leg and they more than deserve to go through.” — Reuters


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