Aston Villa 0-2 West Brom: Hal Robson-Kanu and Jay Rodriguez on target
First-half goals gives the Baggies bragging rights over Birmingham neighbours Villans
Last Updated: 17/02/19 8:13pm
Hal Robson-Kanu and Jay Rodriguez scored first-half goals to earn West Brom an impressive 2-0 away win over Birmingham rivals Aston Villa.
Albion had every reason to be delighted with the outcome as they consolidated their promotion push despite being without their leading goalscorer Dwight Gayle, suspended retrospectively for diving in the recent draw with Nottingham Forest.
Villa have struggled to find a winning formation in the absence of the talented Jack Grealish, who has now been absent for 13 games, a period in which they have only won twice.
The result was that Villa allowed the opposition to build a commanding lead with two goals in four minutes just before half-time, making it the eighth time in 11 games that they have trailed at the break.
On this occasion, they were unable to catch up on missed opportunities as Albion recorded their ninth away win of the season.
There were early signs of Albion's determination to get onto the front foot. Only a timely interception by Tommy Elphick averted a dangerous situation as Robson-Kanu was about to shoot at the near post.
Albion were themselves indebted to goalkeeper Sam Johnstone when he displayed quick awareness after his defenders had been caught wrong-footed by a slick pass from Andre Green to the unmarked Tammy Abraham.
With only Johnstone to beat, Villa's leading marksman shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The incident, however, alerted Albion's defence to the potential danger of entering an attacking mode.
Instead, they relied upon the counter-attack, with the distribution of former Villa favourite Gareth Barry playing a key role as he gave cool authority to Albion's play.
Green was always a potential danger and twice was crudely checked by Mason Holgate, who earned the first yellow card for his second tackle and was quickly followed into the book by Villa's Tyrone Mings.
It was, nevertheless, a frantic local derby, with Conor Hourihane earning a third booking as both teams contrived to make mistakes.
Four minutes before the break Albion finally broke the stalemate when Robson-Kanu was perfectly placed to open the scoring with a looping header from a right-wing cross by the advancing Holgate.
Before Villa had time to regroup they slumped deeper into trouble. Hourihane was caught in possession and Rodriguez took full advantage to notch the second goal with a superb shot from just outside the area in the 45th minute.
Adding to Villa's problems goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic, previously injured in a clash with Jake Livermore, had to be replaced by Jed Steer, while Robson-Kanu made way for Sam Field.
Villa maintained a relentless attacking formation and their former goalkeeper Johnstone foiled their best goal attempt with a great save from the tenacious John McGinn.
Dean Smith: "There was nothing in the game after we started brightly. If Tammy had taken his chance it would have been a totally different game.
"But we did not have enough quality to put enough balls into the box to score. I thought we became very frustrated.
"There were not many chances throughout the game but our quality in the final third is lacking.
"Obviously I am disappointed with the result. We huffed and puffed in the second half."
Darren Moore: "Getting three points on the road in this division is always rewarding.
"The hard work and commitment by the players was excellent and they deserved their victory.
"I was aware it was an important game and that we had to be at our best to come away with a result.
"To score two goals at Villa is no mean feat, while to keep a clean sheet...there are not many teams who will achieve this at Villa Park."