London, United Kingdom | AFP | Teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon scored once and created another as Fulham edged closer to a Premier League return Monday with a 2-0 win over Derby County in their Championship playoff.
Thanks to a 2-1 aggregate victory, the ‘Cottagers’ will now play the winners of Tuesday’s clash between Aston Villa and Middlesbrough with the former leading 1-0 after the first leg at Wembley on May 26.
English wingback Sessegnon, 17 — whose performances have attracted the attention of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and French champions Paris Saint-Germain — brought the tie level two minutes into the second-half with his 16th goal of the season, before his corner was headed home by centre-back Denis Odoi in the 66th minute.
For Fulham — bidding to regain their Premier League status after a hiatus of four seasons — it is an historic moment as it was is the first time they have won in eight play-off matches.
“We showed a lot of bottle today,” Sessegnon told Sky Sports.
“Credit to the lads, we pushed and pushed and should have scored in the first half.
“Thankfully I got the goal and it changed the game. The second put pressure on them. We believe in our style of play.”
For Fulham owner Shahid Khan, Wembley may become part of the furniture as the flamboyant proprietor of NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars has made an offer reportedly worth £800 million ($1 billion) to purchase the 90,000-seater venue.
“This club needs this kind of happiness,” purred Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic to Sky Sports.
“After 43 years we will play at Wembley and it is an important achievement for us.”
After a quiet first-half Sessegnon struck early in the second to rock Derby.
Sessegnon — who many are urging England manager Gareth Southgate to take to the World Cup finals this June — seized on Stefan Johansen’s chest-down to fire the ball into the net past Scott Carson.
Derby replied with Bradley Johnson bursting powerfully into the area and forcing Fulham ‘keeper Marcus Bettinelli into a smart save.
However, the hosts — unbeaten at home since October — turned the screw ever tighter with Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic and Aboubakar Kamara going close.
Carson, though, could do nothing about Odoi’s bullet header from Sessegnon’s corner in the 66th minute, the Belgian defender rising above his marker to power it into the net.
Derby manager Gary Rowett realised dramatic action was required if his side were to avoid remaining outwith the top flight for an 11th season and threw on two of his substitutes including Czech international striker Matej Vydra.
Vydra had a golden chance of bringing the tie all square on aggregate five minutes after his introduction but headed fellow substitute Kasey Palmer’s superb cross over the bar.