Tuesday 19 November 2019

Rioting fans mar Villa's march into last four

Aston Villa 2 West Brom 0

Police clash with fans on the pitch at full time
Police clash with fans on the pitch at full time
Aston Villa's Scott Sinclair celebrates scoring his sides second goal
Aston Villa's Scott Sinclair scores his sides second goal

Stuart James

IT has been quite a week for Aston Villa and one that promises to transform the complexion of their season.

Fabian Delph's first goal for 12 months, followed by a second from Scott Sinclair five minutes from time, condemned West Bromwich Albion to a second defeat in the space of five days at the hands of their neighbours and secured Villa a place in the FA Cup semi-final.

While Tim Sherwood has brought the feelgood factor back to Villa Park, the game was overshadowed by unsavoury scenes at the end. Albion fans located in the upper tier of the North Stand hurled seats and a pitch invasion followed, before and after the final whistle, as Villa fans leapt over the barriers.

Both teams played out the game with 10 men. Claudio Yacob may count himself a little unfortunate to have picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Leandro Bacuna while Jack Grealish, a second-half substitute, was also dismissed after collecting two bookings, the second for diving. This, though, was Villa's day.

West Brom were the much more accomplished team in the opening 45 minutes, created the best chances and should have taken an early lead, but Brown Ideye squandered a gilt-edged opportunity from eight yards.

Running on to Craig Dawson's pass, Craig Gardner scampered clear and delivered a fine cross on the run that picked out Ideye, who looked sure to score. Instead, the Nigerian contrived to lift a left-footed shot over the bar, much to Tony Pulis' dismay and Villa's relief - a poor miss for a player in such decent form.

There had been a warning for Villa two minutes earlier when Matthew Lowton, again asked to fill in at left-back, got caught in possession after a heavy touch. Gardner snapped at his heels and released Saido Berahino in the inside-right channel. With the angle against him, Berahino stuck a low right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area that Shay Given, starting in place of Brad Guzan, kept out with an untidy but effective save.

Villa looked flat. Christian Benteke was absent after picking up a hip injury that broke up the partnership with Gabriel Agbonlahor that had looked so dangerous earlier in the week, forcing Sherwood to change formation and revert to 4-3-3.

It was not until seconds before the interval, when Sinclair made a sinuous run down the Albion left, leaving Joleon Lescott and James Morrison in his wake, that the home team attacked with any menace.

Albion were not exactly laying siege to the Villa goal but there were a couple of anxious moments for Sherwood later in the first half.

Dawson, up against Delph, managed to create half a yard of space to dig out an excellent centre that Ideye got to first, but was unable to generate enough power on his header to seriously trouble Given. Then, a couple of minutes later, the Villa keeper had to back-pedal to fingertip a Chris Brunt shot, which took a huge deflection off Jonas Olsson, over the bar.

Yet it was Villa who carved the breakthrough. Charles N'Zogbia picked up possession wide on the right, cut infield and, with Dawson sucked to the ball and playing more like a centre-half than a right-back, oceans of space opened up for Delph.

N'Zogbia released the ball at just the right time and Delph did the rest, drilling a low left-footed shot beyond Boaz Myhill, who was picked ahead of Ben Foster, and inside the near post.

As was the case on Tuesday, Albion found themselves chasing the game. On that occasion, they brought parity from a corner and history should have repeated itself. Gardner's inswinging kick from the left was inadvertently flicked on at the near post by Tom Cleverley and Lescott, arriving at the back post, looked destined to score. Inexplicably, he headed wide.

Chances came and went at both ends as the game became stretched. Given had to be quick off his line to smother at Berahino's feet while Sinclair went close for Villa twice in the space of two minutes, with Myhill denying him on the first occasion and the winger shooting across the face of goal shortly afterwards.

Albion, though, had lost their way and Sinclair's superbly taken goal - curled into the far corner after running on to Grealish's pass - put the game to bed.

Observer

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