LONDON – Norwich City beat Aston Villa 2-1 on Sunday to seal the English Championship title as Derby County qualified for the play-offs with a 3-1 win against West Bromwich Albion.
Daniel Farke’s Norwich and Sheffield United, who drew 2-2 against Stoke, had already secured automatic promotion to the Premier League before the final round of fixtures.
Derby joined Leeds, West Brom and Villa in the play-offs that will decide which of those four teams clinch the third and final promotion place.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, who finished third, will play Frank Lampard’s Derby in the play-offs, with West Brom facing Midlands’ rivals Villa.
Mario Vrancic scored four minutes from time as Norwich made sure they capped promotion by winning the second-tier title at Villa Park.
Teemu Pukki had put Norwich ahead in the seventh minute and though Jonathan Kodjia levelled just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark, Vrancic ensured the Canaries left the Championship in style.
They finished the season with 94 points from their 46 games and return to the Premier League for the first time since 2015/16.
Derby held their nerve after Martyn Waghorn’s 19th-minute header was cancelled out by West Brom midfielder Stefan Johansen’s curling effort moments after the interval.
With Middlesbrough leading already-relegated Rotherham at the time, Derby could ill-afford to drop points and substitute Mason Bennett’s goal and Harry Wilson’s controversial penalty gave them a 3-1 win.
Derby maintained their one-point advantage over Boro, meaning Tony Pulis’s side finished in the undesired position of seventh, though they closed their campaign with a 2-1 win at Rotherham
Leeds’ meeting with the Rams will have added spice after Bielsa’s admission earlier this season that he sent a club employee to spy on a Derby training session.
“We’re underdogs. I don’t want to think about anything past Leeds,” Lampard told Sky Sports.
“They’re a fantastic team,” added the former Chelsea and England midfielder, who is in his first season as manager.
“They will be two massive games for us. We’ve got our work cut out.
“Take away all of the spying talk, we didn’t play well in those two games (in the league against Leeds).”
The first legs of the play-off semi-finals take place on Saturday, with the final at Wembley on May 27.
The relegated sides are Rotherham, Bolton and Ipswich.AFP