Villa, who surrendered a two-goal lead when this fixture finished all square at 2-2 last season, achieved the same scoreline by the reverse route in a pulsating West Midlands derby on Monday night, pegging the home side back with two goals inside the final quarter of the match after Shane Long had struck twice early for Albion.
Steve Clarke’s team stretched Albion’s unbeaten run against Villa to six matches but there was the satisfaction for his Villa counterpart, Paul Lambert, of seeing a triple substitution change a game in which Albion at one time were threatening to swamp their rivals.
Villa were facing a steep uphill battle from the 11th minute onwards after Long had made a mug of centre-back Nathan Baker and then took advantage of a careless mistake by full-back Leandro Bacuna to double Albion’s lead.
Inside three minutes, the Republic of Ireland striker showed a fine first touch to control Chris Brunt’s probing pass over the top and jinked inside to leave Baker sliding away from him before firing low to Brad Guzan’s right.
Boaz Myhill, in the Albion goal, did well to keep out a deflected effort by Aleksandar Tonev as Villa sought a quick reply but then Long intercepted Bacuna’s casual crossfield pass to bear down on Guzan again, this time finishing his run with a deft chip over the Villa keeper and Baker’s stretching jump.
The second goal – the first time he has scored twice in a Premier League match – gave Long his fourth in as many games for club and country, having belatedly scored a first of the season at Chelsea before the international break, then found the net against Latvia in Martin O’Neill’s first game as Ireland manager. No surprise that the home crowd were in full voice, taking the opportunity to taunt for suggesting pre-match that Villa, despite finishing behind Albion for the last two seasons, were still the bigger club. It obliged Villa to be more expansive than they might have been and Libor Kozak went close with a shot that clipped Myhill’s bar. But Stéphane Sessègnon had by then missed a near-open goal on the end of a Morgan Amalfitano cross and it took a Ron Vlaar tackle and a Guzan block to deny Long a third.
The drive of Youssouf Mulumbu, the solidly efficient Claudio Yacob and the quick-thinking Brunt gave Albion a clear edge. Lambert’s reaction came 12 minutes into the second half, in a triple substitution, when Andreas Weimann and Fabian Delph replaced Tonev and Yacouba Sylla in midfield, with Gabby Agbonlahor relieving Kozak alongside Christian Benteke up front.
There was a dividend within 10 minutes, although only after Sessègnon had missed another chance for Albion. Bacuna crossed and Weimann won a header to divert the ball to Karim El Ahmadi, whose hooked volley looped in.
Albion seemed unsure whether to consolidate or push for a third. Villa scored the equaliser with 14 minutes remaining to set up a frenetic finish as Goran Popov’s badly directed clearing header from an Agbonlahor cross went straight to Ashley Westwood, whose shot from outside the box swerved away late to beat Myhill and give him his first Villa goal in his 42nd appearance.
Goals. West Bromwich: Long 3, 11. Aston Villa: El Ahmadi 67, Westwood 76
WBA: Myhill, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Mulumbu, Yacob, Amalfitano, Sessègnon, Brunt, Long
Villa: Guzan, Clark, Baker, Vlaar, Bacuna, Tonev, El Ahmadi, Westwood, Sylla, Kozak, Benteke
Substitutes: West Bromwich Albion: Morrison (Sessègnon, 73), Anichebe (Popov, 82).
Aston Villa Delph (Sylla, 57), Weimann (Tonev, 57), Agbonlahor (Kozak, 57).
Booked: West Bromwich Mulumbu.
Aston Villa Clark, Agbonlahor.
Man of the match Long. Match rating 8/10.
Possession: West Brom 51% Aston Villa 49%.
Attempts on target: West Brom 4 A Villa 7.
Referee M Oliver (Nortumberland). Att 24,902Reuse content