West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Aston Villa: Early Shane Long double not enough as Villa fights back at The Hawthorns
For the second straight derby, 2-0 wasn’t good enough. In January, it was Aston Villa who’d gone up two at The Hawthorns only to be pulled back to 2-2. This time, the hosts’ two goals in the first 11 minutes didn’t hold up. A triple substitution from Paul Lambert early in the second half helped spur his team’s comeback, Aston Villa able to take a 2-2 draw from rival West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies were on the board after three minutes, Shane Long converting off a long ball from Chris Brunt to give the home side and early lead. Long completed his double eight minutes later with a close range chip over Brad Guzan, forging a lead the hosts would hold for nearly an hour.
Then, Karim El Ahmadi got Villa onto the scoresheet, with the visitors being brought all the way back when Ashley Westwood scored his first career goal in the 76th minute. For the second time in as many derbies, West Brom and Villa were destined to finish 2-2.
The result leaves both teams where they started, as far as the Premier League table is concerned. Eleventh and 12th coming into today’s action, West Brom and Villa stay at the edge of the league’s top half, now sitting one point behind 10th place Swansea City.
Playing long and direct early, Steve Clarke’s team took advantage of Villa’s three-man back line, Brunt’s third minute ball from well inside his own half finding Long for the game’s first chance. The West Brom attacker brilliantly brought the ball down onto his left foot and shot before Villa keeper Guzan could get in position. Curling his try inside the left post, the Ireland international had the hosts up shortly after kickoff.
Long would be a threaten throughout the first half hour, but thanks to Leandro Bacuna’s help, it took him only eight minutes to complete his double. A poor pass from the right flank back toward the middle saw Long intercept the ball and go in toward goal. Drawing Guzan off his line in front of the right post, Long chipped off the bottom of the crossbar and in, giving West Brom a surprisingly easy 2-0 lead.
The next 20 minutes saw a series of half-chances for Long’s hat trick before Villa settled in. Even then, the Claret and Blue were unable to mount any meaningful threats on goal, leading Paul Lambert to make a rare triple substitution 12 minutes into the second half. By that time, West Brom’s edges in shots and shots on target had evened out, but the match was still decidedly the Baggies’.
Lambert’s move nearly paid off within two minutes, with a deflected shot from Andreas Wiemann forcing Boaz Myhill into a reflex push wide of his left post. When Villa followed up with a blast from Fabian Delph (eventually blocked), the visitors seemed to have uncovered some momentum. Within minutes, however, West Brom had regained their legs, generating a chance for Stephane Sessegnon from the edge of the six. For the second time on the night, the Beninese midfielder missed his chance to make it 3-0.
Those misses began haunting West Brom in the 67th minute when Villa pulled one back. Weimann, playing a cross from Bacuna, headed down for El Ahmadi, who finished from eight yards out to pull Villa within one.
Though Villa maintained control of the match, the game seemed to stabilized until a benign 76th minute cross from Christian Benteke was blindly cleared toward the middle by left back Goran Popov. Collecting the ball just outside the West Brom area, Westwood beat Myhill into the right of goal, the Baggies’ keeper given little chance to prevent the first Premier League goal of the 23-year-old’s career. For the second straight derby, a 2-0 lead had proven meaningless.
By the final whistle, the match had swung again, Clarke’s late changes pinning the guests in their own end. But the chances never came, leaving West Brom on the other side of a derby comeback. Unable to counter Lambert’s triple substitution, the Baggies were left to rue points lost.
West Bromwich Albion: 3', 11' Long
Aston Villa: 67' El Ahmadi, 76' Westwood
West Bromwich Albion: Boaz Myhill; Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Goran Popov (82' Victor Anichebe); Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob; Morgan Amalfitano, Stephane Sessegnon (73' James Morrison), Chris Brunt; Shane Long
Ununsed subs: Luke Daniels, Matej Vydra, Craig Dawson, Saido Berahino, Nicolas Anelka
Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker; Aleksandr Tonev (57' Andreas Weimann), Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Yacouba Sylla (57' Fabian Delph), Leandro Bacuna; Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak (57' Gabriel Agbonlahor)
Unused subs: Jed Steer, Chris Herd, Jed Bowery, Matthew Lowton