Match: West Brom v Aston Villa
Date: Friday 7th December 2018
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Venue: The Hawthorns
Gayle 28, Rodriguez 90
Hegazi (og) 12, El Ghazi 59
Nyland; Hutton, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor (Elmohamady 52); McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish (Whelan 86); El Ghazi, Abraham, Bolasie (Kodjia 82). UNUSED SUBS: Bunn, Hogan, O’Hare, Revan.
Story in brief
Villa led twice in an absorbing derby but were denied victory by a controversial stoppage-time equaliser.
Villa players protested vehemently that Jay Rodriguez handled at least once when he converted a Matt Phillips cross from the right but their appeals were ignored by referee Darren England.
It was rough justice on Dean Smith’s side, who had done enough to warrant all three points as Anwar El Ghazi turned on the style.
Villa went ahead when El Ghazi delivered a stinging low cross shot which took a heavy deflection off Ahmed Hegazi and flew inside Sam Johnstone’s left-hand post.
That was just a minute after Matt Phillips had fired fractionally wide at the other end, and it was similar scenario when the Baggies drew level.
Alan Hutton had just set up Tammy Abraham for a low angled shot which Johnstone tipped away, but when Albion launched a swift counter attack, Hutton’s slip allowed Harvey Barnes to cross for Dwight Gayle to volley home.
John McGinn was desperately unlucky to see a 39th-minute drive thump against the post but Villa were back in front just before the hour mark when El Ghazi sent a fierce rising drive into the top corner from 20 yards.
Abraham then missed a glorious chance to put the issue beyond doubt, and it proved costly as Albion raised the hand of Rod.
Anwar El Ghazi produced arguably his best Villa display so far as he revelled in the pulsating derby atmosphere at The Hawthorns.
The winger’s shot was diverted in by defender Ahmed Hegazi for the opening goal, and he restored the lead with a 20-yard drive which left former Villa loan keeper Sam Johnstone clutching at thin air.
But quite apart from the goals, it was a magical performance by El Ghazi, who had the home defence at sixes and sevens with delightful skills which took him past opponents time after time.
There’s another derby in store next Saturday, albeit one that isn’t quite so local.
Villa will renew their rivalry with Stoke City, who head to B6 for the first game between the clubs since the Potters were relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season.