Dean Smith’s Villa came into this game hoping to put an extra nail in West Brom’s coffin to consign their Midlands rivals to an immediate return to the Championship, but also in an attempt to rise above the likes of Arsenal and Leeds in the table with all three points. It started well for the Villans, but ended in a disappointing manner, with the feeling that Villa, could and probably should have got more than a solitary point from the game. This game also saw the long-awaited return of Wesley to the Villa squad. Before we get to the game, let’s go over the line-ups that the two teams put out in the bid for the three points as well as the bragging rights.
Aston Villa XI:
West Bromwich Albion XI:
As previously mentioned, the game started well for those of a Claret and Blue persuasion as very early into the contest at Villa Park, the Villans were awarded a penalty when Chelsea loanee Ross Barkley was brought down in the penalty area to give Villa the chance to get an early advantage in what was set to be a very tight and competitive contest. And, who else but Anwar El Ghazi slotted the ball home from the spot too, once again, score against the Albion – 1-0 Villa.
Dean Smith’s team then had some authority on the game after that, but passing accuracy and chance creation were somewhat lacking for the team in Claret and Blue, who were soon punished for not doubling their advantage when the Baggies were awarded a penalty kick when Ezri Konsa was adjudged to have taken down Arsenal loanee Maitland-Niles. Despite Villa’s protests, the decision of a penalty would not be changed and Albion’s Brazilian maestro, Matheus Pereira placed his shot past Martinez to bring the game back to level terms.
Villa was finding it hard to string a decisive string of passes together to cause problems for Allardyce’s men and went into the half time break needing a significant improvement going into the second forty-five minutes. The Villans were somewhat fortunate to be entering the break level, especially after Pereira went close with a free-kick, and also following a headed chance from Yokuslu, which could easily have nestled into the back of Martinez’s net.
Things then swiftly went from bad to worse for Villa, as just a few minutes into the second half, when a mistake from Konsa meant that Diagne was through on goal and his shot took a massive deflection off Tyrone Mings into the back of the net. The goal was later given as an own goal from Mings – as the initial effort from Diagne was heading wide. It was 2-1 to the Albion, and Villa now had a lot of work to do to at least snatch a point from a game where Villa was not quite at it.
To Villa’s credit, they spent the rest of the match peppering the Albion goal in an attempt to bring the game level once again. An eye-catching volley from Elmohamady produced a wonderful save from ex-Villa loanee Sam Johnstone. If this effort had found the back of the net it would certainly have been a contender for goal of the month, surely? Then, with just half an hour of the game remaining, Watkins was sent in on goal by McGinn, but the ex-Brentford forward was unfortunate to see his shot go right at Johnstone and out for a corner. Still no equaliser. Still 2-1 to the Baggies.
Just minutes later, a deflected Albion corner somehow found its way almost into the back of the Villa net, only for Martinez to make an extraordinary double save to keep his team in it; how he made the initial save to tip it over the bar I will never know. An outrageous save from the Argentine ‘keeper.
The next few minutes saw the introduction of Keinan Davis to the game and also the incredible return of Wesley after more than twelve months on the sidelines. It was an incredible moment for him and the entire club. He had some good touches in the last minutes of the game showing that he has something to contribute for the team in the last few games of the season.
In the closing moments of the game, Davis was unlucky to see his close-range shot hit the Albion post to prevent him from scoring his first-ever Premier League goal. However, the Englishman was not to be denied – as in the last moments of the game, a defensive error from the Baggies meant that Davis was able to break through the Albion defence and slot the ball home to give him his first top-flight goal, and a dramatic late equaliser that will have all but relegated West Brom.
If given a few more minutes, Villa may well have found a winning goal – but this was not meant to be. Villa will be disappointed to not have taken the win, but there are plenty of positives to take into the last few games: Wesley’s return and there is no reason why Davis won’t be able to add to his goal at Villa Park.
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