Aston Villa vs West Brom match report: Scott Sinclair sends Villa to Wembley but triggers frantic pitch invasion by fans

Aston Villa 2 West Brom 0: Sherwood’s side give suffering fans something to cheer at last as battle of the Football League outsiders ends in stalemate and behind-the-scene recriminations

Tim Sherwood did not need to engage his default setting, of a deranged hamster, until a Scott Sinclair goal, five minutes from time, ensured he had reached Wembley in only his 32nd match as a manager. Then, and only then, was he able to release agonisingly supressed emotion.

As he frolicked down the touchline, fans spilled over from the lower tier of the Holte End, to swamp Sinclair and his exultant Aston Villa team-mates. The old ground, such a moribund place for much of another dispiriting season, was alive.

The end was chaotic, with the departing away fans throwing seats from the top tier of the Trinity Stand, and home fans staging a pathetically premature pitch invasion. Two bizarre decisions by referee Anthony Taylor, who sent off Claudio Yacob and Jack Grealish, added to the sense of surreality.

Sherwood will be judged by substantive achievement, Premier League survival, rather than the agreeable sideshow of an FA Cup semi-final. But this was another pivotal moment.  A transformative second-half performance, initially rewarded by a Fabian Delph goal, testified to the immediacy of his impact.

 

A rapid resumption of hostilities, 92 hours after Villa’s climactic, cathartic League win over Albion, was always going to influence the tone of the occasion, but it never ceases to amaze how quickly football clubs begin to assimilate the characteristics of their manager.

Villa, dour and oppressively fearful under the unlamented Paul Lambert, have suddenly acquired Sherwood’s hyperactivity and manic optimism. The man himself seemed to make a conscious effort to be more controlled on the touchline. Even when Villa took the lead, he contented himself with a clenched-fist salute.

The nagging question, that the tie would reflect the Cup’s relative lack of importance, financially and spiritually, compared to Premier League survival, was answered by the team sheets. Sherwood showed a revealing sense of pragmatism, recalling Shay Given and accepting the loss of Christian Benteke, Tuesday’s match-winner, to a “minor” hip injury.

Tony Pulis, never one to be sanguine in the face of inefficiency, dropped errant goalkeeper Ben Foster. He is far too shrewd a politician, and too balanced a character, to respond to such condescension as Sherwood’s depiction of Albion as “a nice little club.” Judging by the intensity of his side’s start, the team talk wrote itself.

Sherwood has yet to prove he can build a club diligently and incrementally. He has not been helped by his inevitable adoption by the Harry Redknapp Glee Cup, who are generally more interested in one liners than tweaks on a tried and trusted 4-4-2.

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Fabian Delph puts Villa ahead

The noise was loud, the expectation tangible. The Holte End was partially obscured by a cloud of claret and blue balloons, leavened by the occasional black and white beach ball. Despite the grim denouement both  sets of fans shared a ninth minute standing ovation in memory of Jeff Astle, whose tragedy cuts across traditional allegiances.

By that time, Villa should have been behind. Craig Gardner broke behind the left side of Villa defence, and delivered a perfectly struck low cross. It was met by Brown Ideye, eight yards out in the centre of goal, but instead of getting his knee over the ball, he leaned back and jabbed an awful shot over the bar.

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Claudio Yacob is sent-off for a second booking

Pulis skipped down the touchline pulling at the brim of his baseball cap  in pure frustration. The discipline he demands breeds a certain mindset. Yacob was manhandled by James Morrison, his partner in central midfield, for jeopardising team shape by his injudicious pursuit of the ball. Such self-sufficiency is a sign that, beyond the immediate priority of confirming Premier League survival, a philosophy is beginning to take root at the Hawthorns. 

It was Dawson’s turn to profit from the weakness of the left side of Villa’s defence in the 32nd minute, when his cross was met by a weak stooping header by Ideye, which was smothered by Given. The goalkeeper had to work harder for his money when he arched backwards to tip over a Chris Brunt volley, which flew menacingly off the back of the unwiitting Jonas Olsson.

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Scott Sinclair scores Villa's second with a beautiful curling effort

Villa took a barely merited lead, six minutes into the second half. Pulis was apoplectic at the way Charles N’Zogbia was allowed to cut in from the right, and set up Fabian Delph, whose shot from the left-hand edge of the penalty area arrowed between the legs of the covering defender, and underneath Myhill.

Villa fans were not remotely bothered that it was the home side’s first shot on target. The air was suddenly filled with the sweet, pungent smell of claret flares. Lescott should have equalised, but once Sinclair scored with a left-foot shot, after being released from the halfway line by Grealish, the game lurched out of control.

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Claudio Yacob is sent-off for a second booking

Taylor, who dismissed Yacob for a challenge on Bacuna, evened things up by harshly sending Grealish off , after he appeared to have been tripped by Lescott.  The FA will, sadly, have to take action on the subsequent anarchy.

Line-ups:

Aston Villa (4-3-2-1): Given; Clark, Okore, Lowton; Cleverley (Sanchez, 65), Westwood, Delph; Sinclair, N’Zogbia (Grealish, 73); Agbonlahor (Gil, 87).

West Bromwich ( 4-4-2): Myhill; Dawson, Olsson (McManaman, 68), McAuley, Lescott; Gardner (Mulumbu, 85), Yacob; Morrison, Brunt; Berahino, Ideye

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: Delph (Aston Villa)

Match rating: 6/10

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