Lambert proud of Villa comeback
Published 26/11/2013 | 06:31
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert hailed an "excellent" second-half display from his side after a fightback from two goals down ensured their derby at Midlands rivals West Brom ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Barclays Premier League contest started disastrously for the visitors, with Albion frontman Shane Long netting in the third and 11th minutes, his second strike coming after he had collected the ball from a misplaced pass by Villa midfielder Leandro Bacuna.
But Lambert's men - given fresh impetus by the treble substitution he made in the 57th minute that introduced fit-again trio Andreas Weimann, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph to the action - recovered impressively after the break.
Karim El Ahmadi volleyed in from a Weimann header in the 67th minute and Baggies defender Goran Popov then inadvertently nodded Agbonlahor's 76th-minute cross to Ashley Westwood, who lashed a fine, swerving strike into the net from distance to level the match.
Reflecting on the encounter, Lambert said: "When you look at the start we had, it was really poor from our point of view.
"After around 10 minutes at 2-0 down, and particularly in a derby, you are up against it.
"But to be fair, I still thought we were seeing a bit of the ball, and at time you are thinking, 'Get them in at half-time, have a little chat with them'.
"They came out in the second half and I felt they were excellent.
"I thought they were well worthy of getting it back, and might have gone on to win it. The impetus was certainly with us.
"The first half wasn't good enough, but the second half was excellent."
Regarding the substitutes, Lambert added: "The three lads that came on had only started to train again on Friday and it was a big ask to put them in.
"I trusted the team I picked at the beginning to go and perform, and I always will do that and never have any regrets about any decision.
"But we needed a goal at a certain time of the game. I was actually going to put them on a bit later, but then we had a chat at half-time and decided to make the changes pretty quick. We threw them on and thankfully it worked."
Lambert singled out Westwood for particular praise, and not just relating to his goal.
"I thought Westwood was excellent the whole night," Lambert said.
"His passing was excellent and his goal was a fantastic strike - he has got terrific technique, and he is a terrific footballer, a really clever footballer. I thought he was outstanding."
Stephane Sessegnon could - and should - have made it 3-0 in the 19th minute, but from Morgan Amalfitano's cross he failed to control the ball when unmarked in the box, sending it wide.
And giving his thoughts on the game, West Brom head coach Steve Clarke made it clear he regarded it as a significant moment.
Clarke said: "We started the game really positively, Shane scored two terrific goals and then we had a big chance - Morgan put a great cross in for Stephane to make it 3-0, and normally he would have scored.
"But I felt we had a decent control of the game really for the first hour. There was a period in the second half where we lost control - Villa made a few changes, putting on a couple of front players that livened it up for them.
"We seemed to lose our momentum and concentration, we made two bad mistakes defensively and if you do that, you get punished in this league."
For his first goal, Long expertly brought down Chris Brunt's long ball forward with his right foot before lashing home with his left, while his second saw him seize on Bacuna's stray pass, accelerate forward and then send a deft chip over Brad Guzan.
Of the Republic of Ireland international, Clarke said: "He showed tonight that when he is on his top level, he is a player to be reckoned with - with his first finish especially I thought.
"When you think about that skill of bringing the ball down over your shoulder, it is a really difficult skill, and then he has shifted it on to his weaker left foot, but the way he hit the shot, you wouldn't know it was his weaker foot. It was a great finish.
"With the second one, he showed good anticipation to read the poor pass across the back and it was another good finish. It was a good night for him, but unfortunately we couldn't get the three points."
Both Albion and Villa, 11th and 12th in the table respectively, now have 15 points from 12 games.