Aston Villa won the first-leg of their play-off semi-final against fierce local rivals West Brom 2-1 thanks to two second-half goals from Conor Hourihane and Tammy Abraham.
Dean Smith’s men started the game on the front foot, but they found themselves behind in just the 16th minute due to a pretty poor error from Glenn Whelan.
Whelan, to be fair to him, has been playing very well, but he definitely won’t want to watch this one back. Jack Grealish played him a simple pass, but he miscontrolled it, allowing Dwight Gayle to nip in and slam the ball past Jed Steer in the Villa goal.
Villa tried to get back on level terms, but they looked out of ideas in the first-half and went in at the break a goal down.
Smith must have gave them an absolute rollicking at half-time as they came out with a lot more purpose.
West Brom were trying to soak up the pressure, but you just sensed that a goal was coming. It finally arrived in the 75th minute when Grealish laid the ball back to Hourihane, who then proceeded to rifle a shot past Sam Johnstone.
Four minutes later, Villa were ahead. Grealish burst into the box and he was taken down by Gibbs. Abraham stepped up and comfortably sent Johnstone the wrong way.
Things got better for Smith and his men late on when Gayle saw a second yellow that rules him out of the return leg at The Hawthorns on Tuesday.
Here are our Villa player ratings for today’s game:
GK: Jed Steer - 7.5
Made a fantastic save to prevent Rodriguez from scoring and was always ready to come out to claim the ball to relieve the pressure from his defenders.
RB: Ahmed Elmohamady - 6.5
Put in a solid defensive display and put in a number of teasing deliveries when he got forward.
CB: Tyrone Mings - 6
Gayle caused him a number of problems and some of his passing was a bit sloppy today. Also didn’t win as many aerial duels as he usually does.
CB: Axel Tuanzebe - 7.5
Covered well when he was needed and rarely let anyone get the better of him. Was Villa’s best defender today.
LB: Neil Taylor - 5.5
His crossing was atrocious in the first-half, but he was a bit better in the second and made a couple of vital interceptions.
RM: Albert Adomah - 4.5
Once again, Adomah was Villa’s worst player. Gave the ball away on far too many occasions and his crosses just aren’t good enough.
CM: Glenn Whelan - 5
Made a schoolboy error that cost Villa dearly and struggled due to the lack of time he had on the ball.
CM: John McGinn - 5.5
McGinn looked off the pace today.
CM: Jack Grealish - 7.5
Drifted in and out of the game at times, but he was involved in the two moments that mattered the most for Villa. First he set up Hourihane’s goal and then minutes later he won a penalty.
LM: Anwar El Ghazi - 7
Whenever El-Ghazi got the ball he was direct and purposeful and looked to cause West Brom all sorts of issues.
ST: Tammy Abraham - 6.5
Struggled to get involved in the first-half and didn’t get the ball an awful lot in the second. However, he stepped up and comfortably gave Villa the lead from the penalty spot.
SUB: Conor Hourihane - 8
Came on in the 66th minute and turned the game on its head. He scored a stunning equaliser and was involved in the build-up play that eventually led to Villa’s penalty.
SUB: Andre Green - 6
Came on in the 66th minute and caused West Brom’s defence way more issues than Adomah did.
SUB: Jonathan Kodjia - N/A
Only played the last 6 or 7 minutes, so it’s unfair to rate him.