Ryan Sessegnon guides Fulham past Derby into Championship play-off final

first_imgChampionship Wenger gone, goal frenzies and Tranmere Rovers’ return – Football Weekly Read more Derby County Facebook Fulham had never won a play-off match before, failing on seven occasions against the likes of Grimsby Town and Bristol Rovers. They came into this game having missed automatic promotion at the last and with a 1-0 deficit to overturn. It requires a certain strength of character to flip that kind of record around, and Sessegnon has it. He turns 18 on Friday.Slavisa Jokanovic has been forced to talk about Sessegnon many times already this season, such has been the teenager’s form, with 15 league goals and a place on the PFA young player of the year shortlist already under his belt. The Fulham manager was made to do so again after this match and he put it like this: “He is 17 and he is special. I can’t explain him. I remember what I was like when I was 17, and the level he is at at this age is fantastic. He knows very well what this profession is about; it’s focus and concentration,and he made a great job for us.”Quick to shift the focus away from a player who will surely be linked with every club under the sun this summer and may yet have an outside chance of an England call-up, Jokanovic praised the defensive resolution of his side on the night, observing quite accurately that they stymied any Derby hopes on the counterattack. But this performance was more a vindication of his side’s capabilities on the ball, which Jokanovic has been stressing throughout these past two weeks of relative stress.Making one change from the team that lost on Friday night, with the muscular Aboubakar Kamara for Floyd Ayité, Fulham dominated the ball from start to finish, just as they had at Pride Park. Sessegnon might have opened the scoring within eight minutes, only to see his lofted effort turned over the bar by Scott Carson. The former England keeper was outstanding and made his best save of the game at the very end of the opening period, turning a point-blank Alexander Mitrovic header over the bar with his right hand as he dived to his left. Fulham Share on Pinterest Fulham 2-0 Derby (agg: 2-1): Championship play-off semi-final – as it happened Reuse this content The match was scoreless at half-time but it didn’t feel like Derby were going to leave with a clean sheet and, within two minutes of the restart, Sessegnon made sure they wouldn’t. It came from a Matt Targett cross, the Southampton loanee finding Stefan Johansen in the box. The Norwegian got up and chested down to Sessegnon, who was mystifyingly unmarked. With one touch on his chest and the second with that dynamite left boot of his, the ball was soon lashing the roof of the net. Twenty minutes later, Sessegnon curled a corner to the front post and Odoi arced a wonderful header beyond Carson to give Fulham a leader they never looked like surrendering.Gary Rowett was generous enough to admit his side had had it coming. “It’s a difficult enough task to come here and get a clean sheet‚“ he said, “Never mind to stop them scoring for a second game.” The Derby manager criticised his team for what he saw as succumbing to the pressure of such a high-stakes tie. They struggled to create a chance of note in the match, though the absence of their top scorer Matej Vydra who was left out of the starting XI by Rowett, might have factored into that equation. Topics Share on Messenger Denis Odoi rises above the Derby defenders to flick a brilliant header into the far corner and send Fulham to Wembley. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian Share on LinkedIn Share via Email Only time will tell if this highly-charged encounter will help take Fulham back to the promised land of the Premier League. But judging by the electricity that crackled round the old stands of Craven Cottage, there is momentum behind the Cottagers. And they also have Ryan Sessegnon.The teenager scored the first goal of this match and set up the second for Denis Odoi. Kept quiet for much of the game, when his moment arrived in the second minute of the second half, Sessegnon buried it. For Derby that is now three play-off defeats in five years and Rowett has a tricky summer ahead working out how to take his experienced and expensive team that one extra step. For Fulham however, the dream is still alive. Craven Cottage was bouncing throughout the match, quite literally in the case of small crowds balanced precariously on balconies in the corners. The noise was not quite what you’d expect from one of the Football League’s more scenic stadiums, but maybe they felt something special was happening.“If I can find some kind of benefits the I start to be interested in statistics” said Jokanovic who had spent the past fortnight denying their significance. “I know that we haven’t played for 43 years at Wembley.“So we are really satisfied and proud. We know how important it is to get there, but it’s more important to show our quality in the final. Now we must clear our minds, rest our bodies and prepare.” Listen Pinterest match reports Share on Twitter Share on WhatsApp Twitter Share on Facebooklast_img read more