A memorable first-ever Aston Villa goal from Ashley Westwood earned his side a point after an entertaining Midlands derby against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns ended 2-2.
The home side had raced into a two-goal lead inside just 11 minutes courtesy of a fine double from Shane Long. West Brom could and should have added to their lead too, with Stephane Sessegnon, in particular, culpable, of wasting two fine opportunities. And they were made to pay for their profligacy after Paul Lambert made a triple change just before the hour mark to reinvigorate his side. Karim El Ahmadi soon pulled one back, before Westwood thumped in a stunning strike from outside the box with 14 minutes remaining.
Steve Clarke will no doubt be furious that for the second match in succession his side has dropped points late on. Unlike against Chelsea, though, on this occasion he has only his side to blame for failing to hold on for victory.
The result leaves West Brom and Aston Villa level on 14 points, with the former one place better off, in 11th.
It will have been Lambert who will have been cursing his side after two woeful defensive lapses enabled West Brom to take control of the match. First, in just the third minute, a fine long ball forward from Chris Brunt exposed the Villa defense before a glorious first touch by Long caught Nathan Baker on his heels. The Republic of Ireland international made no mistake with a clinical finish from the edge of the box.
His finish for his second goal soon after was even more impressive. Again, though, Long’s position in front of goal owed much to Villa’s own errors. Leandro Bacuna was the prime culprit this time around with a careless pass across the edge of his own box that was easily intercepted by Long and, after breezing past Baker, he produced a stylish dink over the prone Brad Guzan.
Long might have had a hat-trick before the break after bursting through a Villa team in a state of disarray but this time firing straight at Guzan. Sessegnon really should have put the game beyond Villa. Before the break he somehow contrived to completely fluff his kick at the back post after a Morgan Amalfitano cross had given him a golden chance to find the net. Amalfitano’s good play again failed to get the finish it deserved from Sessegnon when just past the hour mark he skied another good opportunity.
By that time, Lambert had thrown caution to the wind and made all of his substitutions in one fell swoop. They were to pay off handsomely. One of those brought into the fray, Andreas Weimann set up the first by heading back across goal for El Ahmadi to control a volley past Boaz Myhill in the West Brom goal.
The best, though, was left for last. Following a cross from the left, a defensive header went straight to Westwood 25 yards out and after taking a touch he crashed a drive that bent away from Myhill into the corner.