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Player ratings v Villa as Pereira excels but Albion throw win away

A disastrous late goal, which was as a result of defensive and goalkeeping indecision, cost West Brom all three points at Aston Villa.

Substitute Keinan Davis equalised for Villa in stoppage time after Kyle Bartley and Sam Johnstone between them failed to deal with a loose ball. It was a frantic West Midlands derby in which Albion had earlier turned the game on its head having fallen behind early on.

Anwar El Ghazi plundered a very soft penalty at one end, before Matheus Pereira dispatched a quite possibly even softer one at the other. A Tyrone Mings own goal shortly after the restart had handed the Baggies the lead.

Still, they only have a single point to show for their efforts on a night where victory was a necessity.

The first half wasn’t great in terms of quality, and the two obvious talking points were the two highly questionable spot-kicks that were awarded to either side.

Exhibit one.

Semi Ajayi was the culprit as he leaned into Ross Barkley, with the Villa midfielder directing away from goal. As you’d come to expect in this day and age, the attacker does not need a second invitation to go to ground, and referee Stuart Attwell didn’t take long before deciding to point to the spot.

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El Ghazi, for so long the scourge of Albion – this was his fifth goal against them – sent Sam Johnstone the wrong way.

Albion, who hadn’t begun the game particularly fluently anyway, now found themselves behind after ten minutes and in need of a spark. To their credit, they discovered it in the form of Pereira.

We all know of the Brazilian’s undoubted talent and, when he’s in the mood, he’s a joy to watch. Pereira wasn’t at the races on Thursday night, but he was most certainly in the previous wins over Chelsea and Southampton. Here, Villa struggled to restrict him.

Exhibit two.

The opportunity to level things up came a quarter of the way into the game. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, with his back to goal in the penalty area, felt pressure from Ezri Konsa and, much like Barkley, hit the deck. It must be a London loanee thing.

This time VAR – shock – was consulted, but Martin Atkinson couldn’t find anything clear and obvious to overturn it. Pereira, as he did twice at Molineux in Albion’s last derby away day, dispatched the penalty nervelessly.

The Brazilian also hit the bar from a free kick, having made a mug of compatriot Douglas Luiz in the corner of the pitch with a sublime piece of skill. Maitland-Niles drove his shot from Pereira’s resulting cross straight at Emi Martinez.

At the other end, El Ghazi remained a threat, but Albion largely had the measure of Barkley, Bertrand Traore and Ollie Watkins.

The pitch itself was well watered. Players were slipping and sliding throughout. Perhaps inevitably, it was going to lead to a key moment – and that just so happened to be in Albion’s favour.

Konsa, under no significant pressure, slipped in the Villa back-line and abandoned possession when doing so. Diagne raced onto it and, although he had Robinson for company, he opted for goal. The shot appeared to be going wide, but it was helped past Martinez by the desperately stretching Mings, in his efforts to repel the danger.

From there, it wasn’t a nice watch. It was squeaky bum half, as Villa built up a head of steam in an attempt to draw themselves level. Davis, the substitute, crashed a shot against the post. Traore did likewise and Johnstone was called into action to stop Ahmed Elmohamady and Watkins.

You thought they’d weathered the storm, as stoppage time arrived, but Villa probed and kept asking questions of the Albion back-line. Eventually, they made a breakthrough.

A cross from the left was nodded back across goal by Watkins and, when communication was a priority, Bartley and Johnstone failed to deal with the bouncing ball. Davis nipped in, took advantage of the situation and bundled in the leveller.

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Johnstone 7

Sent the wrong way for the penalty but he was a safe pair of hands otherwise. Made one decent save from El Ghazi and dealt with crosses with a degree of comfort. Smart saves in the second half from El Ghazi and Elmohamady before a big stop to deny Watkins. Must take a share in the responsibility for Davis’ equaliser.

Furlong 7

Found El Ghazi a handful early on, and often Furlong was outnumbered without an obvious wide teammate in front of him. Made one excellent recovering tackle on Barkley and his long throws sparked uncertainty in the Villa defence. Used his spring to great effect to win aerial duels and was earnest in his defensive responsibilities.

Ajayi 6

A clumsy challenge handed Villa an early penalty. Contact was minimal but Barkley didn’t need a second invitation to hit the deck. Ajayi for the most part from there seemed to put it behind him and seemed to have the running of Watkins.

Bartley 5

Was putting in another excellent display, all told, in which he dominated Watkins in the air and cleared his lines throughout. One moment of indecision, the one moment he didn’t clear his lines as he and Johnstone failed to communicate, gut-wrenchingly at the death cost Albion two points.

Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez beats West Bromwich Albion's Kyle Bartley to the ball
Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez beats West Bromwich Albion’s Kyle Bartley to the ball

Townsend 6

Largely had the measure of Traore on the wing. Picked a pass to good effect on more than one occasion, as we know he can, though he did lose Watkins on the break and Johnstone was called into action. Beaten at the back stick as Albion threw two points away.

Yokuslu 7

Like against Leicester, Yokuslu was uncharacteristically off the boil with his short passing in the first half, but he was more of an influence in breaking the play up. Should have scored his first Albion goal when he headed wide. Booked for committing a necessary foul on Traore.

Gallagher 6

Back in the starting XI for the first time since the defeat at Crystal Palace. Brought energy, won fouls and was placed on set piece duty. There was one excellent pass that set Phillips racing away and led to a Pereira effort on goal, but Gallagher lacked composure at key times.

Maitland-Niles 8

Better from AMN, here. Won the penalty for Albion which presented Pereira with a chance to level. Tested Martinez with a stinging drive. His link up play with Gallagher and Pereira was better than it had been on Thursday and his defensive discipline and concentration was clear.

Aston Villa's John McGinn fouls West Bromwich Albion's Ainsley Maitland-Niles, resulting in a penalty
Aston Villa’s John McGinn fouls West Bromwich Albion’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles, resulting in a penalty

Robinson 6

A quiet opening period against his former employers, during which time he struggled to really assert himself in the final third or give Konsa, Mings or Elmohamady anything significant to worry about. Tested Martinez with a low shot that required saving. An honest, hardworking shift as per.

Pereira 8*

Albion’s key man came to life after Albion fell behind. You don’t doubt his penalty taking ability. A wondrous piece of skill in the corner made a fool of Luiz. Hit the bar from a free kick, and sent another just over the woodwork. A little quieter in the second, he managed one shot on target which Martinez saved. Defensively excellent.

Matheus Pereira celebrates scoring for West Bromwich Albion against Aston Villa
Matheus Pereira celebrates scoring for West Bromwich Albion against Aston Villa

Diagne 6

Subdued in the first half, and shackled by Mings and Konsa in the aerial battle. Build up play in the second improved, as he dropped deeper and was fed by Pereira. Was in the right place to punish Konsa and ensure Albion went in front. Generally better in the second period.

Subs

Phillips (for Robinson 67)

O’Shea (for Maitland-Niles 86)

Subs not used: Button, Peltier, Livermore, Sawyers, Diangana, Grant, Robson-Kanu

Aston Villa: Martinez; Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz (Ramsey 77), McGinn; Traore (Wesley 90), Barkley (Davis 82), El Ghazi; Watkins

Subs not used: Hause, Engels, Taylor, Nakamba, Philogene-Bidace, Heaton

GOALS

Villa – El Ghazi 9 pen, Davis 90; Albion – Pereira pen 23, Diagne 47

The ref: Stuart Attwell

Up next: Wolves (H) – Monday 3 May, 6pm KO



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