West Brom saw their chances of reaching the play-off final take a huge blow in the last 15 minutes against rivals Aston Villa, as Dean Smith’s side produced a fine comeback to take a huge step towards a place in the play-off final with a 2-1 win in the first leg of their play-off semi final.
The Baggies defended stoutly for 75 minutes, and had looked to be edging their way towards victory after Dwight Gayle’s first half strike had put James Shan’s side ahead.
Gayle capitalised on a poor mistake from Glenn Whelan before producing a powerful low finish to put the Baggies in front, moments after Jay Rodriguez forced Jed Steer into a fine save as his curling effort was tipped onto the bar.
However the tie was turned on it’s head with 15 minutes remaining, as substitute Conor Hourihane produced a brilliant finish from range to equalise for Villa.
And Smith’s side went ahead just four minutes later as Tammy Abraham kept his nerve from 12 yards to put Villa ahead, after Kieran Gibbs fouled Jack Grealish in the area.
Things went from bad to worse for West Brom three minutes from time, when Gayle received a second yellow card for a lunge on Steer, and the Baggies top-scorer is now ruled out of the second leg.
Here’s how we rated the Baggies’ performance.
Sam Johnstone - 6
Clawed a cross away in the build up to Villa’s equaliser well but could do nothing about Hourihane’s fine strike.
Mason Holgate - 6
The full back had a slightly shaky first half, emphasised by his yellow card for a foul in a dangerous area. He improved slightly in the second, however.
Craig Dawson - 6
A solid first half from Dawson, who was forced off at half time due to injury.
Ahmed Hegazi - 7
Made a few important headers for the Baggies and defended relatively well despite the defeat.
Kyle Bartley - 6
Similarly to Hegazi, he won his aerial duels well and almost helped to double the Baggies’ lead, but his header back across goal wasn’t converted by his teammates.
Kieran Gibbs - 5
A poor performance from Gibbs was summed up when he gave away the penalty after a challenge on Grealish. Perhaps lucky to not be sent off for a second yellow.
Chris Brunt - 6
A good first half performance from the experienced Brunt, but he looked tired as the second half went on.
Stefan Johansen - 6
Johansen was brilliant in the first half, but is another who struggled in the second and that was emphasised by a yellow card and a number of late tackles.
Matt Phillips - 5
Replaced by Jacob Murphy early in the second half after struggling to make much of an impact.
Jay Rodriguez - 6
Went close early on with a fine effort and put a big shift in defensively.
Dwight Gayle - 6
Opened the scoring with a fine finish from outside the area and but should’ve done much better with an attempted pass when the Baggies were through two-on-one with the Villa defence. His afternoon got even worse when he was sent off late on in a debatable red card decision.
Subs - 6
All three Baggies subs struggled to impact the game after coming on. Mears replaced the injured Dawson at half time, Murphy came on for Phillips early in the second half and James Morrison was introduced late on.
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