Hudl’s resident expert analyst breaks down the second leg of the Championship Play-off, as Aston Villa held off Middlesborough to advance to the Championship Play-off Final.

How did both teams set up intially?

With the tie precariously placed a 1-0, both teams began set up with a 4-3-3, matching numbers in the midfield. Villa playing with a deep flat back four and Boro with a high line and more positive approach given they needed one goal at the absolute minimum to stay in the tie.

Both teams set up with a variant of 4-3-3 with Middlesbrough's back four operating a higher line than their opponents.

Where could Boro get the goal they needed?

Their most likely source was going to be 15 goal striker Britt Assombalonga or the electric winger-cum-striker Adama Traore.

To counter this pacey duo, the two Villa Centre backs played a relatively deeper line to eliminate space for Assombalonga and Traore to get in behind.

Middlesbrough had a positive set up with a higher defensive line throughout, looking to win the ball in the midfield and transition into counter-attacks.

In the first fifteen minutes of the game their Challenge percent win was 10% higher than the opposition, showing their intent to win the ball and mount attacks. Ultimately Boro finished with 58% challenge success rate, which is incredibly high for a team that drew a game.

How was the tie won?

Steve Bruce would have made It was simple for Villa in his pre-match talk - Keep a clean sheet and we are off to Wembley.

Villa sat deep, allowing the Middlesbrough back four to have possession in their defensive third, with everyone in the midfield dropping off before looking to press as the ball entered the midfield third. This meant there was very little space between the units of Villa.

Villa settled into their defensive shape with the midfield three sitting deep.

Middlesbrough would have liked to have got the ball between the lines in this scenario, however Mile Jedinak for Villa bossed this area of the park and worked extremely hard to eliminate any space in this area.

Jedinak operated effectively as a holding midfielder and screened his two centre halves with little offensive responsibility and a clear remit to sit and protect.

Alan Hutton excelled at right back in a man marking role against Traore. The Scottish international switched flanks with left back James Bree in the second half to maintain his effective shadowing of the Middlesbrough forward.

This was a successful plan from Manager Bruce to stifle the pace of Traore, however the Spaniard was often let down by his end product on the ball.

Traore lost 14 balls, significantly more than any other Middlesbrough player.

The key substitution

In an extremely tight game, Lewis Grabban became very isolated up front for Villa. His night was very frustrating with the striker struggling to get touches in the final third and recording a number of unsuccessful challenges.

Aston villa actually maintained more possession higher up the pitch when Jonathan Kodja came onto the field. His hold up play was excellent and allowed Villa the time to get higher up the pitch as Boro pressed for a goal late on.

When the ball was held up, Villa could transition with their winger breaking wide to provide options for a potential counter-attack. This almost led to a goal when Albert Adomah forced a brilliant save from Boro keeper Darren Randolph. A goal here for Villa surely would have killed the tie.

Aston Villa's transition play which almost caught out Boro on the counter in the second half.

Star player

Jedinak deserves a shout for his tireless work in the engine room but Jack Grealish has been Villa’s talisman so often this season and after setting up the goal in first leg, he was again the main man on this night.

From the stats we can see that Grealish had 11 possessions (periods of play more than 4 seconds and/or more than 4 touches in one possession), which was a match high. In comparison, his midfield partner Conor Hourihane managed only two.

Grealish’s threat to the Boro defence was clear as he was fouled significantly more times than any other player on the pitch, due in no doubt to his ability to shield the ball when carrying.

Jack Grealish was again Villa's standout performer.

Post-match view

Middlesbrough best chances came late on in the game, a game which they needed to win. There were significantly more penalty box entries in the final fifteen minutes of the game – However when Tony switched to a 4-4-2 they actually had zero successful crosses which will be very frustrating for as he specifically introduced rangy striker Rudy Gestede to win aerial challenges on the edge of the box.

In hindsight, the changes that were made by Pulis may have caused more problems being made earlier, however in a game where neither side were willing to take any chances with regards to the giving up of space, and both sides setup to eliminate the oppositions threats, it is unsurprising that the game finished as it did. 0 – 0 a fair result on the night.