Aston Villa 4 West Brom 3 match report: A penalty from Christian Benteke seals thrilling derby victory for Villa

Six of the goals were scored in an eventful first half

Click to follow
The Independent Football

After starving their home crowd of joy for much of the season, Villa repaid at least part of the deficit by winning a West Midlands derby as exciting as many would have witnessed, the first six goals coming before half-time, the first two of them to Albion. A penalty, won and converted by Christian Benteke 19 minutes into the second half, ultimately provided Villa with only a third home victory of the season, strengthening their position in mid-table and giving manager Paul Lambert hope that his side's dark days at Villa Park may become less frequent

“To go 2-0 down after eight minutes in any game is tough, to do so in a derby doubly so,” Lambert said. “To turn it round in those circumstances was fantastic.

“The team showed a lot of maturity and grew up a lot and hopefully the result will give the players the belief that they can see sides off at home.”

Benteke proved a tough opponent throughout for Albion's back four, whose chances of repelling Luis Suarez when Liverpool visit The Hawthorns on Sunday look less than encouraging. 

Worrying for Pepe Mel, still seeking his first win as Albion's new head coach, the bottom three remains uncomfortably close, with a compelling need for the Spaniard to reinforce his squad before the transfer window closes, more so given that Nicolas Anelka, already facing the possibility of a ban for his controversial “quenelle” gesture, suffered a knee injury that will almost certainly rule him out of the Liverpool game.

Given Villa's woeful home record and Albion's ineffectiveness away from home, at least since they won at Old Trafford in September, a touch of caginess might have been to be expected but there was no inhibition from either side.

Barely four minutes had passed when Chris Brunt put Albion ahead, collecting Liam Ridgewell's pass on the left side of midfield and beating Brad Guzan with a delicious dipping shot into the top right-hand corner. Within five minutes, they had doubled the advantage when Fabian Delph's attempt to block James Morrison's drive from the left diverted the ball past Guzan into the Villa net. 

Villa 2.jpg
Fabian Delph of Aston Villa scores an own goal past Brad Guzan

With no let-up in the ferocious pace, Villa had pulled one goal back by the 12th minute, Andreas Weimann taking advantage when Diego Lugano and Claudio Yacob failed between them to deal with a long Guzan free kick, the ball skimming off Yacob's head to Weimann, who had only Foster to beat.

Villa drew level after 24 minutes when Leandro Bacuna's attempt to convert Matt Lowton's low cross spun across the line despite Steven Reid's attempted block. They went ahead after 37, Delph slamming the ball home off the bar after wrong-footing Reid to make the most of Benteke's flick-on.

Benteke had the chance to stretch Villa's lead to 4-2 when Foster saved with his legs. Instead, they conceded a third time as Albion produced a flowing move along the right that ended with Morrison guiding the ball into the home penalty area for Youssouf Mulumbu to get the better of Ron Vlaar and poke the ball through Guzan's legs.

Albion began the second half as brightly as the first. A long-range effort from Morgan Amalfitano squirmed away from Guzan, then Lugano, on the end of a Brunt free kick, sent a diving header wide when he should have scored.

The Uruguayan centre back kept his place at the expense of Gareth McAuley, who had been Steve Clarke's preferred partner to Jonas Olsson but returned from injury to only a place on the bench tonight. But having gone close to scoring his first goal for Albion, Lugano then blotted his copybook by giving away the penalty from which Villa clinched the points, pulling Benteke over as they waited to contest Bacuna's high ball. The Belgian picked himself up to score from the spot, his third goal in as many games.