Cairney goal sends Fulham back into Premier League
LONDON (Reuters) – Fulham returned to the Premier League after a four-year absence as Tom Cairney scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa in the Championship playoff final at Wembley on Saturday, the richest game in world football.
Cairney’s first-half goal was decisive as Fulham held on despite having Denis Odoi sent off after 70 minutes as tempers began to fray on a sultry afternoon. The win secures Fulham a windfall of at least 160 million pounds ($212.91 million).
The west London club, who missed out on automatic promotion when losing to Birmingham City on the final day of the regular season to finish third in the table, celebrated with their joyous fans as they sealed a place in the Premier League.
Cairney struck after 23 minutes, clinically slotting the ball home from an inch perfect pass by Ryan Sessegnon at the end of a rare flowing move in a cagey first half.
Villa improved after the break, with Jack Grealish going close after one superb dribble, but they could not find an equaliser as Fulham defended resolutely in the closing stages.
Defeat ended Villa manager Steve Bruce’s hopes of a record fifth promotion to England’s top flight.