West Brom – Aston Villa: The Baggies suffered another frustrating defeat with 10 men on the field, this time at the hands of local Birmingham rivals Villa, to mark Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge of the club at The Hawthorns on Sunday.
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Anwar El Ghazi bagged the game’s opening goal very early in the first half, and Bertrand Troare made it 2-0 before El Ghazi converted from the penalty spot for 3-0, and Aston Villa cruised to a comfortable victory made all the more easy by Jake Livermore’s 34th-minute red card. West Brom attempted just one shot in 90 minutes.
The result sees Aston Villa climb back into the top half of the Premier League table, while West Brom are firmly planted in the relegation zone, in 19th place with just one victory this season.
3 things we learned: West Brom – Aston Villa
1. Aston Villa massively improved in season 2: 12 games into their first season back in the Premier League, Aston Villa had won 11 points (17th in the table) — a pace which continued for the entirety of the 2019-20 season (35 points from 38 games) and only saw them avoid relegation on the final day of the season. 12 games into their second season in the top flight, Aston Villa are on 22 points (9th) and now have one or two games in hand over every team around them. It won’t be long before one of the “big” clubs comes calling for Dean Smith — if he (and Jack Grealish) don’t turn Aston Villa into one first.
2. Feel-good factor guiding Aston Villa: Speaking of Smith and Grealish…
pretty cool to see aston villa doing this well with lifelong fans of the club leading the way as manager and star player, pretty pretty cool
— Andy Edwards (@AndyEdMLS) December 20, 2020
3. Allardyce has his work cut out for him: Not only do West Brom not look talented enough to belong and stay in the Premier League, but the Baggies look like a team that also lacks the discipline and self-control of a top-flight team. Through 14 games of the 2020-21 season, West Brom have finished three games with 10 men after having a player sent off in the first half. Total number of goals conceded in those three games: 13.
After firing 27 shots in a frustrating scoreless draw with Burnley on Thursday, Aston Villa needed fewer than 300 seconds to find the back of the net and get off the mark against West Brom. It was El Ghazi, who attempted eight shots in the game against Burnley, who exorcised a few demons with a deft outside-of-the-foot touch at the back post, made possible by Traore’s delightfully floated cross to the back post int he 5th minute.
Already down a goal, West Brom found themselves down a man as well after Livermore’s reckless, lunging tackle on Jack Grealish. Initially a yellow-card offense, Livermore was sent off following a brief video review which showed his studs to have been shin-high on Grealish after launching his body in the air.
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Aston Villa thought they had gone 2-0 ahead in the 72nd minute when Ollie Watkins slotted Matty Cash’s sensational cross home, only to have the goal taken off the scoreboard by video review. Watkins was deemed to have been an inch or two offside as Cash played the ball into the box.
The second goal came at long last in the 84th minute, and Traore took it as smoothly as humanly possible. After receiving a brilliant feed from Grealish, Traore took two touches toward goal and cut back onto his left foot before playing a nonchalant pass/finish with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone rooted in place.
El Ghazi completed the rout, from the penalty spot in the 87th minute, after Grealish was tripped right on the edge of the penalty area. 1-0 and 2-0 would have flattered West Brom, whereas 3-0 paints a very accurate picture.