Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom: Conor Hourihane and Tammy Abraham put Villa in driving seat
Last Updated: 12/05/19 7:48am
After a week of classic comebacks, Aston Villa produced their own to strike twice late on to beat West Brom in the first leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final.
With 14 minutes to go, it looked like Dwight Gayle's first-half goal (16) after Glenn Whelan's error was going to leave Villa with a uphill battle in the second leg.
The Baggies were resolute and managing the game very shrewdly but Conor Hourihane's quality strike levelled it up (76) before Jack Grealish won his team a penalty following a foul from Kieran Gibbs, which was converted by Tammy Abraham (79).
Things got worse for the visitors in the closing stages when top scorer Gayle was dismissed for a second yellow card, meaning he will miss Tuesday's second leg at The Hawthorns.
Aston Villa: Steer (7), Elmohamady (6), Tuanzebe (6), Mings (6), Taylor (5), Whelan (4), McGinn (5), Grealish (7), Adomah (6), El Ghazi (6), Abraham (6)
Subs: Hourihane (7), Green (6), Kodjia (N/A)
West Brom: Johnstone (7), Holgate (6), Dawson (6), Hegazi (7), Bartley (7), Gibbs (4), Johansen (6), Brunt (7), Phillips (6), Gayle (7), Rodriguez (7)
Subs: Mears (6), Murphy (N/A)
Man of the match: Jack Grealish
Villa, last season's beaten play-off finalists, started at a good tempo but once West Brom got into their rhythm, the hosts struggled to create opportunities and became frustrated early on.
The Baggies came within inches of the opener on 11 minutes but a fine save from Jed Steer flicked the ball onto the crossbar.
The visitors took the lead on 16 minutes after a calamitous mistake from Whelan.
The midfielder's awful touch allowed Gayle to charge through on goal before finishing with a powerful effort.
A goal advantage looked more than enough for West Brom as they defended brilliantly and started to manage the game, which brought about a yellow card for Gayle early in the second half.
With Grealish nullified, there didn't look much hope of a turnaround but Hourihane produced a game-changing moment.
Grealish did manage to find space and set up Hourihane, who smacked an unstoppable effort into the top corner.
Villa Park sensed an opportunity for a second goal and their team delivered.
Gibbs brought down Grealish as he burst down the right inside the penalty area and Abraham stroked home the spot-kick.
Gayle made it a final 15 minutes to forget for Albion when he slid in to try and convert a low cross but clattered Steer and saw red.
Man of the match: Jack Grealish
For 75 minutes, Grealish was kept relatively quiet by Stefan Johansen and Chris Brunt but a player of his talent only needs one moment to change a game. He was involved in the opening goal which was smashed home by Hourihane before winning the penalty that Abraham tucked away. It says a lot of his talent, that even though he was well below his best he still picked up the outstanding player award. He will not be in the Championship next season, surely.
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith: "I think we deserved to win the game. I think Albion came here to sit behind the ball, slow the game down and take their time with throw-ins, free-kicks. We had to try and open them up and we found it difficult. We were nowhere near our best today but found a way to win, which is always important."
West Brom caretaker boss James Shan: "I thought we were very, very good. For the way we wanted to execute our gameplan, I thought we were very good. I thought we frustrated them for large parts of the game.
"I said to the boys, if you look at it, it's a shot from distance and a penalty. I feel quite comfortable. We frustrated them, we denied them spaces to penetrate us and they weren't overly creative."