Championship - Play-offs - 1st Leg
Aston VillaAston Villa2West BromWest Bromwich Albion1

Aston Villa 2-1 West Bromwich Albion: Conor Hourihane and Tammy Abraham give hosts edge

By Ged ScottBBC Sport at Villa Park
Tammy Abraham scores
Tammy Abraham's 26th goal of the season gives Aston Villa the advantage going into Tuesday's second leg at The Hawthorns

Aston Villa struck twice inside three second-half minutes to earn themselves the advantage in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final with West Bromwich Albion.

Substitute Conor Hourihane's brilliant 25-yard shot and then a Tammy Abraham penalty turned the tie on its head following Dwight Gayle's first-half strike.

But the real tipping point of the two-leg contest may have come two minutes from the end of normal time when Baggies striker Gayle was sent off for sliding in late on Villa keeper Jed Steer.

Barely two minutes after being booked by referee Graham Scott for time wasting, he got away with a similarly committed challenge on the halfway line before this time finally being shown his second yellow card of the game.

Although West Brom's 10 men survived the seven minutes of added time, the effect of Gayle's dismissal may be more keenly felt on Tuesday when Albion's top scorer will now be suspended for the second leg at The Hawthorns.

Having opted to go with three central defenders and with Jay Rodriguez in a more withdrawn role, Albion effectively operated for the majority of the game with a six-man midfield.

And it worked well until Hourihane scored, eight minutes after coming on for Glenn Whelan as part of a double substitution, to help make up for the error made by his fellow midfielder in the build-up to Albion's goal.

Errors hand Albion early initiative

After making a lively start, Villa should have led when, from a short corner on the left, Whelan ballooned a header over from John McGinn's cross, while Albert Adomah fired over.

But Albion threatened for the first time when the Villa defence struggled to clear a Chris Brunt free-kick and, in the confusion that followed, it needed a fine save by Steer to tip a Rodriguez shot onto the bar.

It was then another Villa error that set up Albion's goal on 16 minutes.

A passing exchange between Jack Grealish and Whelan went wrong to leave Gayle in the clear, and the striker ran on to plant a low left-foot shot just inside Steer's left post for his 24th goal of the season.

Dwight Gayle scores for West Brom
Dwight Gayle's 24th goal of the season took the West Brom striker to his highest ever goal tally in a single campaign

Villa substitutions help turn tie

The hosts twice went close to an equaliser before the break when an acrobatic right-foot scissors kick from 10 yards by Abraham flew just over, before the striker's low left-foot shot brought a comfortable save from former Villa loan keeper Sam Johnstone.

But they went down the tunnel at half-time knowing that they would have to improve, and Villa certainly did that as they created more chances after the break.

Whelan had a low shot blocked, Abraham put a near-post header just off target, Grealish had a deflected curling effort saved low down and Anwar El Ghazi shot just over from an angle.

But it was only when Villa head coach Dean Smith turned to his bench that his side finally got their breakthrough.

Grealish squared for Hourihane to hammer home first time left-footed, with Johnstone rooted to the spot as the Republic of Ireland international's ninth Villa goal of the season flew into the net.

Moments later Grealish went down in the area under a challenge from Kieran Gibbs, the penalty was given and Abraham made no mistake for his 26th goal of the campaign.

But the drama was not over as Albion appealed for a penalty of their own when Mason Holgate went down under a clumsy challenge from Abraham, before Gayle's late red card potentially tilted the balance of the tie in Villa's favour.

'We keep on finding ways to win' - post-match reaction

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith told BBC Sport:

"I had a massive decision to make in leaving out Conor Hourihane, just as I have had tough decisions to make over the last two or three months.

"I've got four quality international midfield players and only three places - and four into three doesn't go. But Conor answered in the best way possible with a lovely strike.

"Albion came with a game plan to slow the game down and they capitalised on Glenn Whelan's mistake. Their approach might be a bit different on Tuesday night. Their supporters might want them to play a bit differently.

"Although a few of ours won't think they had their best game, we keep on finding ways to win. But I was frustrated that, when they were down to 10 men, we maybe did not have enough opportunities to go on and get another."

West Brom caretaker head coach Jimmy Shan told BBC Sport:

"It's very frustrating. Dwight Gayle's a big player for West Brom. He gets booked for allegedly time wasting at a long throw-in. Then, for the second, he's got every right to go in and contest the ball.

"There was no malice whatsoever. He's gone in to make contact, to get on the end of the cross from Jay Rodriguez and make himself a two-goal hero.

"And we should have a penalty ourselves. There was no attempt to win the ball in Abraham's challenge on Holgate. It was a penalty all day long.

"But we've still got 90 minutes ahead of us. The atmosphere will be electric and we've got to be bit more on the front foot and take the game to Aston Villa."


Aston Villa

Formation 4-1-4-1

  • 12Steer
  • 27El Mohamady
  • 4Tuanzebe
  • 40Mings
  • 3Taylor
  • 6WhelanSubstituted forHourihaneat 67'minutes
  • 37AdomahSubstituted forGreenat 67'minutes
  • 7McGinn
  • 10Grealish
  • 22El GhaziSubstituted forKodjiaat 90+1'minutes
  • 18Abraham


  • 14Hourihane
  • 15Jedinak
  • 17Davis
  • 19Green
  • 26Kodjia
  • 28L Kalinic
  • 30Hause

West Brom

Formation 3-4-3

  • 1Johnstone
  • 25DawsonSubstituted forMearsat 45'minutes
  • 5Bartley
  • 26HegaziBooked at 48mins
  • 68HolgateBooked at 33mins
  • 11Brunt
  • 6JohansenSubstituted forMorrisonat 85'minutes
  • 3GibbsBooked at 77mins
  • 10PhillipsSubstituted forMurphyat 66'minutes
  • 19Rodriguez
  • 16GayleBooked at 88mins


  • 7Morrison
  • 12Mears
  • 14Townsend
  • 15Montero
  • 23Bond
  • 28Field
  • 70Murphy
Graham Scott

Match Stats

Home TeamAston VillaAway TeamWest Brom
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Aston Villa 2, West Bromwich Albion 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Aston Villa 2, West Bromwich Albion 1.

  3. Post update

    Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Tyrone Mears.

  4. Post update

    Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Mason Holgate.

  5. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Andre Green (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

  6. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Jonathan Kodjia (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tammy Abraham.

  7. Post update

    Foul by Jack Grealish (Aston Villa).

  8. Post update

    James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  9. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tammy Abraham.

  10. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  11. Substitution

    Substitution, Aston Villa. Jonathan Kodjia replaces Anwar El Ghazi because of an injury.

  12. Post update

    Delay in match Anwar El Ghazi (Aston Villa) because of an injury.

  13. Dismissal

    Second yellow card to Dwight Gayle (West Bromwich Albion) for a bad foul.

  14. Post update

    Jed Steer (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  15. Post update

    Foul by Dwight Gayle (West Bromwich Albion).

  16. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, West Bromwich Albion. James Morrison replaces Stefan Johansen because of an injury.

  18. Post update

    Delay in match Stefan Johansen (West Bromwich Albion) because of an injury.

  19. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  20. Post update

    Delay in match Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa) because of an injury.


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2Sheff Utd462611978413789
4West Brom4623111287622580
5Aston Villa4620161082612176
8Bristol City461913145953670
9Nottm Forest461715146154766
12Sheff Wed461616146062-264
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