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Championship play-off semi-final: West Brom 1 Aston Villa 0 aet 3-4 on pens (2-2 agg)

By Matt Wilson | Football | Published: | Last Updated:

After failing to score in 120 minutes, including 40 against ten men, Villa needed goalkeeper Jed Steer to be the hero that sent them back to Wembley.

Steer saved the first two penalties in a tense shoot out in front of the Smethwick End to ensure Dean Smith's men edged past their closest rivals 4-3 on penalties on a pulsating evening.

The winning penalty was struck by Tammy Abraham past former Villa keeper Sam Johnstone, but it was a valiant effort from the Baggies in front of their home crowd.

Craig Dawson's header in the 29th minute had levelled the tie up at 2-2 after Villa won the first leg on Saturday 2-1.

And in the second half the Baggies looked more likely to win it with their physically intense style that fed off one of the most electric atmospheres at The Hawthorns in recent years.

But in the 80th minute, Albion lost their captain and leader Chris Brunt to a red card, swinging the tie in Villa's favour.

That's three games in a row the Baggies have been stung by late red cards.

Hal Robson-Kanu and Dwight Gayle were already suspended for this match and then losing Brunt looked to have cost them.

Somehow though, the Baggies, who played 40 minutes with ten men and a centre-back in midfield, and the whole of extra time with two academy lads on the pitch, clung on until penalties.

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It means Jimmy Shan finishes his spell as caretaker boss with a perfect record at home and six wins from six.

The caretaker deserved credit for turning their previously welcoming home into a fortress.

In many ways, this game was a clash of cultures. Villa insisted on a passing game despite being hounded by Albion's front players before Brunt's red, while the Baggies relied on power and physical presence, moving the ball forward as quickly as possible and capitalising on set pieces.

Shan made one change to his team, bringing in Jacob Murphy for the suspended Dwight Gayle and sticking with the same 5-4-1 system from the first leg.

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Dean Smith rewarded Conor Hourihane for his goal with a place in the starting line up and Andre Green replaced Albert Adomah.

Villa brought the heat in the first leg, with flamethrowers shooting 10 metres into the air at kick-off.

The Baggies opted to coat The Hawthorns in blue and white flags, with an individual one for each supporter sparkling under the floodlights on a balmy evening.

The ground was shaking at kick-off, when the teams emerged to a wall of noise, with whistles for those in claret and blue and ear-splitting roars for those in blue and white.

But it was Villa who had the earliest opening less than a minute in when Craig Dawson and Kyle Bartley, perhaps unable to hear each other, went for the same ball, allowing Anwar El Ghazi to race away.

The winger was shepherded away from danger by Ahmed Hegazi before Mason Holgate put in the first big tackle of the evening

Jacob Murphy had a shot blocked up the other end after a long throw as the Baggies looked to capitalise on set pieces.

Nine minutes in the Baggies had a strong penalty appeal when a cross to the back post struck El Ghazi high up his arm in the box, but nothing was given.

After events of the first leg, when Dwight Gayle was booked for timewasting at a throw-in, the fans were making sure Villa took all of theirs as quickly as possible.

But Dean Smith's side weathered the early storm, and started to pass the ball around in midfield.

Tyrone Mings was given an early booking for handball, as he attempted to handle a corner into the net at the same end Jay Rodriguez scored with his hand when these two sides met in December.

Villa were trying to find the dangerous El Ghazi as much as possible, with John McGinn having more influence than the first leg.

The visitors were controlling the ball but Albion were hunting in packs and trying to win possession high up.

When Rodriguez knocked Mings off the ball midway through the half, The Hawthorns responded.

A resulting corner was headed away by Axel Tuanzebe but the long throw from Holgate found Dawson's head, and his glancing header bounced past everyone and crept inside the far post.

The Hawthorns erupted. Twenty-nine minutes in and the tie was level. And for the next five minutes the Baggies were running around like men possessed.

But then the influential McGinn broke clear and slipped Grealish through. Holgate brought him down on the egde of the box, but Hourihane blasted it at the wall.

Villa were still trying to pass it around Albion, who were keeping their intense physical game up as much as possible.

El Ghazi's shot from distance was safely gathered by Johnstone, before the first half ended with some pushing and shoving after Chris Brunt's boot landed on McGinn's wrist, although there was no punishment yet from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Villa started the second half brightly, and it took a diving punch forward from Sam Johnstone to clear an El Ghazi cross.

But the home crowd used a stoppage in play to ramp up the atmosphere again, before another Holgate long throow wreaked havoc.

Albion were getting into Villa's faces and forcing them into mistakes.

Brunt hammered a long range shot just over after he and Murphy stole the ball off McGinn and then Murphy was alive to a poor Jed Steer pass, but his shot towards the bottom far corner was blocked by Mings.

The effort may have been going wide but he couldn't take the chance, and the rebound hit Rodriguez before flying over.

The Hawthorns was starting to believe. Rodriguez's smart half volley on the turn was straight at Steer, although he nearly fluffed it.

The match was swaying back and forth almost every minute. McGinn fizzed one over after Johansen was booked for bringing down Grealish, but their inistence on playing out from the back continued to put them under pressure.

Brunt curled a 25 yard effort a foot wide of the far post after Mings gave the ball straight to Holgate.

Johnstone then saved from El Ghazi, pushing a low drive away from goal, before James Morrison came on for Stefan Johansen, who had run and run and run until he could run no more.

With 15 minutes of regular time to go, Smith sent Adomah on for Green and Shan brought Rekeem Harper on for Matt Phillips.

Albion had looked more likely in the second half but then, in the 80th minute, the tie swung in Villa's favour.

Brunt was already walking a tightrope but when Hegazi lost the ball to McGinn in his own half, he lunged in on the Scot, and was shown an inevitable second yellow.

Shan responded by sending Tosin Adarabioyo for Murphy and asking the Manchester City loanee to fill in as a holding midfielder.

But Villa pushed forward, and the Baggies were clinging on. Johnstone somehow pawed Adomah's lethal strike from seven yards out away from goal with the strongest of right hands, before saving from McGinn too.

It ensured there would be another half an hour.

Shan used his fourth substitute straight away, sending Jonathan Leko on for his main penalty taker Jay Rodriguez.

The substitute nearly went through on goal on a rare counter attack, but he controlled the ball with his hand.

It was attack versus defence though, and Smith sent on another goal threat in the 100th minute in Jonathan Kodjia.

But as much as they tried, Villa still couldn't find a way through. Shots were blocked, crosses were cleared.

Grealish nearly carved out an opening with a one-two but Hegazi was on hand to tackle him.

In the second half of extra-time, Villa's captain had a curled effort easily gathered by Johnstone before Abraham blasted over. It just wasn't happening.

Smith's men were trying to be too cute, when it required someone to take the situation by the scruff of the neck.

Smith's final throw of the dice was to send Keinan Davis on, and Villa wanted a penalty late on when Grealish lifted the ball into Dawson's arm but Kavanagh said no.

Extra time finished with corner after corner for Villa but either the delivery was poor, or there was a blue and white head meeting it.

Mile Jedinak came on for Axel Tuanzebe just before the shoot-out, which took place in front of both sets of fans in the Smethwick End.

Steer saved Albion's first two penalties from Holgate and Hegazi to give Villa a 2-0 lead, but Adomah skied a chance to send Villa to Wembley at 3-2.

James Morrison levelled things up, leaving it up to Tammy Abraham in a rematch of Saturday's spot kick at Villa Park.

Once again the Chelsea loanee made no mistake, sending the away end into raptures.

The home crowd responded, letting the Albion players know they appreciated the fight they showed.

This Albion team will likely look very different next year, with the Baggies facing a summer rebuild in order to cut their wage bill. All of a sudden, their season is over and thoughts turn to the new manager.

Villa's thoughts are only on Wembley, where they will return 12 months after heartbreak under Steve Bruce.

They may not have been at their best at The Hawthorns, but they are older and wiser than last year, and a different beast under Smith.

They will be desperate to make sure it's not another wasted trip to the capital.

Key moments

09 Albion appeal for a penalty when the ball strikes El Ghazi high up on his arm but nothing given.

29 GOAL ALBION! Dawson flicks on Holgate's long throw and it evades everyone, bouncing inside the far post.

44 Brunt's boot lands on McGinn's wrist, sparking a few puffed out chests.

80 RED CARD - Brunt sent off for a second yellow after scything down McGinn.

86 Johnstone's strong right hand denies Adomah from close range.

116 Villa want a penalty when Grealish lifts the ball into Dawson's arm but nothing given.

120 Abraham scores the winning penalty to send Villa through.

Teams

Albion (5-4-1): Johnstone; Holgate, Dawson, Bartley, Hegazi, Gibbs; Phillips (Harper 75), Brunt (c), Johansen (Morrison 70), Murphy (Adarabioyo 82); Rodriguez (Leko 92).

Unused subs: Bond (gk), Townsend, Montero.

Villa (4-3-3): Steer; Elmohamady (Davis 113), Tuanzebe (Jedinak 120), Mings, Taylor; McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish; Green (Adomah 75), Abraham, El Ghazi (Kodjia 100).

Unused subs: Kalinic (gk), Hause, Whelan.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Attendance: 25,702 (2,000 away)

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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