Aston Villa beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in their Championship playoff semifinal first leg on Saturday, as the home side launched a stunning late comeback at Villa Park.
The local derby swung in West Brom’s favor early on, as Dwight Gayle finished clinically but then a stunner from substitute Conor Hourihane was followed by a Tammy Abraham penalty kick moments later to send Villa Park wild.
To make matters worse for West Brom, their top goalscorer Gayle was sent off in the closing stages after a late challenge on Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer.
Villa or West Brom will play the winner of Leeds United or Derby County in the playoff final at Wembley on May 27 for a place in the Premier League.
After a fast start, West Brom went so close to opening the scoring, as Jay Rodriguez’s superb curling shot was tipped onto the crossbar by Steer.
At the other end Abraham sent an acrobatic effort just over, then Villa made a huge mistake and they were punished.
Glenn Whelan gave the ball away in a key area and Gayle pounced to smash home the opener at the Holte End to put West Brom 1-0 up. Villa struggled to get going again in the first half after that error, with West Brom dangerous on the break.
Abraham went close twice at the start of the second half as Villa pushed hard to get level with Jack Grealish leading the charge.
Villa eventually levelled 15 minutes from time as Hourihane smashed home a stunning strike with his left foot after Grealish found him unmarked 25 yards out.
It got even better for Villa moments later as Kieran Gibbs caught Grealish in the box and the home side were awarded a penalty kick.
Abraham stepped up to slot home the spot kick to give Villa a precious 2-1 lead ahead of the second leg at the Hawthorns on Tuesday.
However, Abraham did push over Mason Holgate in the box late on and was lucky to not concede a penalty kick.
And West Brom then made their task even tougher as their top goalscorer Gayle was shown a second yellow card for fouling Steer and will now miss the second leg.
Aston Villa remained within striking distance of the Championship top six with a bonkers three-goal comeback to earn a 3-3 draw against third-placed Sheffield United.
A hat-trick from Billy Sharp had Sheffield 3-0 up just past the hour mark, but the home side was not finished at Villa Park, with three goals in the final eight minutes-plus from Tyrone Mings, Tammy Abraham, and Andre Green sealing the remarkable comeback.
Sharp’s goals were all too easy, with the third capping off the comedy of errors in the 62nd minute as he remained remarkably open at the back post to head home a lofted cross by Kieran Dowell. From there, however, Aston Villa completely turned things around.
With the home side turning on the afterburners, Villa out-passed Sheffield in the attacking third 57-24 and out-crossed the visitors 14-0. They got on the board in the 82nd minute as Mings headed in a corner from close range, and bagged the second four minutes later as he tapped in the rebound of a saved Glenn Whelan free-kick.
Finally, with time winding down, Villa equalized in the fourth minute of stoppage time as John McGinn latched ontoJack O’Connell’s whiffed clear and sent in a right-footed cross from just outside the six-yard box. Green rose high above his defender George Baldock, and headed into the back of the net as Villa Park exploded.
The draw pulls Aston Villa within three points of a playoff position, although they have played two games more than most teams directly above them. For Sheffield, the dropped points are enormous, as a win would have brought them above both Norwich City and Leeds United into the Championship lead on goal differential. Instead, they remain in third two points back.