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Baggies rejoice at meteoric rise

The pecking order looks like changing in the West Midlands. Youssouf Mulumbu's late goal gave West Bromwich Albion their first win over Aston Villa in 26 years and lifted them above their opponents, up to 11th position with three games remaining.

Written off as relegation candidates at the start of the campaign, Albion are finishing it with a flourish, pursuing a top-half place and the title of the region's leading club. That might not be viewed as such a great achievement given the problems Villa, Birmingham and Wolves have experienced, but try telling that to the Albion supporters that celebrated with such elation at the final whistle.

This was a long overdue victory for those that have witnessed the 17 meetings between the two clubs since Albion's last success in April 1985 and was made sweeter still by the fact that they spent the final 28 minutes with 10 men.

Paul Scharner's sending off for a second yellow card -- two minutes after Peter Odemwingie had levelled when Scharner's shot deflected off Stilian Petrov into his path -- looked to have swung the game back in Villa's favour.

Yet for all their possession in the closing stages, Villa forced only one save from Scott Carson, when Stewart Downing's shot was tipped around the post, leaving them open to Albion's late sucker punch.

Mulumbu's finish to Simon Cox's through ball moves Albion onto 43 points and, although they are not mathematically safe, it would take a miracle for them to be relegated. It has been some turnaround under Roy Hodgson. Albion were 17th and only outside of the bottom three on goal difference when he took over from Roberto Di Matteo in February. "It's a fantastic feeling with three games to go to have achieved our goal of keeping West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League," said Hodgson.

Gary McAllister, who is standing in for Gerard Houllier while the Villa manager continues to recover after his recent health scare, could only look on with frustration as the visitors failed to build on the lead they were gifted when Abdoulaye Meite put through his own net in farcical circumstances in the fourth minute. McAllister was just as annoyed that they were unable exploit their numerical advantage. "When West Brom went down to 10 men it was a great chance for us," he said.


Sunday Indo Sport