Match: West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa
Date: Tuesday 14th May 2019
Competition: Play-Off semi-final, second leg
Venue: The Hawthorns
Steer; Elmohamady (Davis 114), Tuanzebe (Jedinak 120), Mings, Taylor; McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish; Green (Adomah 75), Abraham, El Ghazi (Kodjia 101). Unused subs: Kalinic, Whelan, Hause.
Story in brief
Villa are heading to Wembley once again after emerging victorious in a tension-charged Championship Play-Off semi-final.
Despite losing to a Craig Dawson goal on the night – taking the aggregate score to 2-2 – Dean Smith’s men reached the Final by winning the shoot-out 4-3.
The finale could hardly have been more dramatic as Jed Steer saved Albion’s first two kicks while Conor Hourihane and Mile Jedinak both sent former Villa keeper Sam Johnstone the wrong way.
Jonathan Leko reduced the deficit before skipper Jack Grealish also outwitted Johnstone, although Villa nerves began to jangle when Kieran Gibbs netted a second for the home side, followed by Albert Adomah firing over.
James Morrison made it 3-3 – but Tammy Abraham had the final word as he tucked the ball into the bottom corner.
Despite the hostile atmosphere, Villa were well on top in the early stages and frequently had Albion chasing shadows with some free-flowing football.
But they were rocked just before the half-hour mark when the home side went in front from the first clear-cut chance of the match.
Full-back Mason Holgate was the creator with a long throw from the right, and Dawson arrived perfectly to flick a header past Steer and inside the far post.
It was a blow which knocked Smith’s men out of their stride, and by the interval the only real threat had come from an angled Anwar El Ghazi shot which Johnstone saved at the foot of the post.
By comparison with their earlier composure, Villa were ill-at-ease at the start of the second half and were relieved to survive a couple of anxious moments following hesitancy at the back.
Brunt also sent one effort just over and another narrowly wide, although El Ghazi again tested Johnstone with a fierce 68th-minute drive which the keeper pushed aside.
After the home skipper had been sent off, Villa were dominant once again in the closing stages of normal time and sub Adomah almost settled it with a powerful left-footer which brought a brilliant reflex save from Johnstone.
Despite camping out in the Baggies half for the whole of extra-time, the visitors were unable to capitalise on their advantage of an extra man – but those spot-kicks made it a night to celebrate.
Give us a Steer
Jed Steer doesn’t often grab the headlines but he was the man-of-the-moment in the penalty shoot-out which took Villa to the Final.
He dived to his left to keep out Mason Holgate’s spot kick and then to his right to deny Ahmed Hegazi’s penalty.
And although he was beaten by Albion’s next three kicks, the keeper had done enough to ensure Villa’s place at Wembley.
Not that he is the first Villa keeper to perform heroics in a shoot-out.
Remember Mark Bosnich against Tranmere Rovers in 1994 and Brad Guzan against Sunderland in 2009?
Not that you really need reminding, but Villa will be heading to Wembley for the Play-Off Final against Derby County on Monday 27th May.