Aston Villa came away from near neighbours West Bromwich Albion with what looked like an unlikely point at half time. Shane Long bagged an early brace that put the hosts two up at The Hawthorns, but Karim El Ahmadi and Ashley Westwood came to the rescue.
Baggies boss Steve Clarke made one change to the team that drew at Chelsea with Goran Popov coming in for Liam Ridgewell. Villa manager Paul Lambert meanwhile named the same XI that started the home win over Cardiff City
Home side Albion went ahead within three minutes when Long took down Chris Brunt’s long ball beautifully, eliminating the defender from contention, and fired low past Brad Guzan. Villa responded with Aleksandar Tonev cutting inside and letting fly.
Baggies stopper Boaz Myhill turned this effort behind from the Bulgarian as it took a nick off Gareth McAuley’s head en route to goal. Two other tame efforts were easily dealt with later. The hosts doubled their lead through Irish striker Long on ten minutes as the ferocious start continued.
Albion profited when Villa right back Leandro Bacuna played a dreadful square ball. Long nipped in, threw Nathan Baker off with a step over and chipped Guzan, finding the finish off the underside of the bar.
Stephane Sessegnon should have made it 3-0 to the hosts, but fluffed his lines when Morgan Amalfitano’s centre found him at the back post. Villa then went close to pulling one back when Christian Benteke knocked down for partner Libor Kozak and his strike grazed the top of the bar.
Long, hungry for his hat-trick, drove at the heart of the visiting defence, but Guzan parried his effort. The Baggies continued to chase another goal with vigour in the second half, prompting Lambert to make a triple substitution.
Andreas Weimann came close to scoring within seconds of coming on, but Myhill got just enough on this low effort to turn it behind. A much-improved Villa pulled one back with a quarter of the game to go through surprise source El Ahmadi.
The Moroccan midfielder hooked the ball beyond Myhill when Weimann headed on a Bacuna cross. Westwood then levelled 15 minutes before the end with an emphatic finish on the edge of the box, punishing Goran Popov’s poor clearance from a left wing corner.
A share of the spoils leaves both West Brom and Villa on the same number of the points, though these West Midlands are now level with Swansea. To all intents and purposes, they are the best of rest.
- WBA: 13 Boaz Myhill, 2 Steven Reid, 23 Gareth McAuley, 3 Jonas Olsson, 4 Goran Popov (16 Victor Anichebe 82’), 21 Youssouf Mulumbu, 5 Claudio Yacob, 18 Morgan Amalfitano, 29 Stephane Sessegnon (7 James Morrison 73’), 11 Chris Brunt (c), 9 Shane Long 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Shane Long 3’, 11’
- Villa: 1 Brad Guzan, 7 Leandro Bacuna, 4 Ron Vlaar (c), 2 Nathan Baker, 6 Ciaran Clark, 15 Ashley Westwood, 8 Karim El Ahmadi, 18 Yacouba Sylla (16 Fabian Delph 57’), 24 Aleksandar Tonev (10 Andreas Weimann 57’), 27 Libor Kozak (11 Gabriel Agbonlahor 57’, 9 Christian Benteke 4-4-2 diamond
- Goals: Karim El Ahmadi 67’, Ashley Westwood 76’