After a difficult summer and a poorer first half and festive period for Aston Villa, there were still outside hopes of a late run for the Championship Play-Offs spots even if automatic promotion was beyond us.
Under new head coach Dean Smith, slow playing style improvements gave many additional faith (but not all) but when things finally clicked in 2019, boy did they click.
A history making winning streak and a fine unbeaten run may have come to an end against Leeds United and Norwich City respectively, but we were guaranteed a season extension and today saw us welcome West Bromwich Albion to Villa Park for the Semi-Final first leg.
Villa were clearly on top across the whole game as West Brom’s plan seemed to defend and pray for the counter. It worked once as we fell behind 16 minutes in as Dwight Gayle capitalised on a Glenn Whelan error but the chances kept falling for us in the final 15 minutes we turned the game on its head.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) May 11, 2019
Conor Hourihane hit an absolute rocket in minute 75 and after Jack Grealish was hauled down in the box, Tammy Abraham made it 2-1 from the penalty spot four minutes later.
With Gayle then seeing a second yellow card and getting his marching orders, we take a 2-1 advantage through to Tuesday’s clash at The Hawthorns looking to complete the job.
Speaking to the BBC following the fulltime whistle at the effective halftime stage of the doubleheader, Smith said of the game.
“I had a massive decision to make in leaving out Conor Hourihane, just as I have had tough decisions to make over the last two or three months. I’ve got four quality international midfield players and only three places – and four into three doesn’t go. But Conor answered in the best way possible with a lovely strike. Albion came with a game plan to slow the game down and they capitalised on Glenn Whelan’s mistake. Their approach might be a bit different on Tuesday night. Their supporters might want them to play a bit differently. Although a few of ours won’t think they had their best game, we keep on finding ways to win. But I was frustrated that, when they were down to 10 men, we maybe did not have enough opportunities to go on and get another.”