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Abraham ensures that West Brom pay the penalty

SPOT ON: Tammy Abraham (right) after his successful penalty

STRIKER Tammy Abraham's second half penalty made sure that Aston Villa put one foot in the Championship play-off final after grinding out a 2-1 first leg victory at home over local rivals West Bromwich Albion (May 11).

For much of the match it appeared that Baggies fans would be leaving Villa Park the happier having kept their heads in front for three quarters of the game.

In-form loan striker Dwight Gayle capitalised on a rare defensive error by Glenn Whelan in the 16th minute to give West Brom the lead - charging in on goal and slamming the ball past Jed Steer following the Republic of Ireland midfielders poor touch.

It was a lead the visitors held for the next hour, but a decisive five-minute spell by Villa late on turned the game on its head.

Substitute Conor Hourihane netted brilliantly with a rasping drive from the edge of the box in the 75th minute then four minutes later Chelsea loanee Abraham kept his nerve to score his 26th goal of the season from penalty spot in front of the delighted Holte End.

Villa had the industry and flair of Jack Grealish to thank for the penalty. He was a constant threat and West Brom defender Kieran Gibbs clipped the home side’s captain as he drove into the box.

To compound West Brom’s woes, Gayle received his marching orders late on as he clattered into Steer while stretching to reach a low cross into the box by James Morrison as Albion sought to restore parity.

The incident earned the team’s leading scorer a second yellow card - having picked up an earlier booking for time wasting. He will now miss the return leg leg at the Hawthorns on Tuesday.

West Brom caretaker boss Jimmy Shan had set up his team to “frustrate” Villa by packing his midfield to slow the game and stifle Villa’s attacking prowess. But ultimately it was he who departed the frustrated man:

“I’ve looked back at the decision to send off Gayle. It’s not one that I agree with, and I think we were hard done by massively. [The difference] was a shot from distance and a penalty.”

Villa’s Dean Smith felt that his side were below par throughout the game, but remained patient as they sought to brake down the uncharacteristically defensive Baggies.

“I thought Albion came to sit behind the ball and slow the game down. We had to try to open them up and found it difficult.”

He insisted that his side will maintain attacking style of play and go for more goals rather than sit back as they seek to close in on the playoff final for the second year in succession - on May 27.

But Shan is predicting very different type of performance from his players: “I’m sure our crowd will get behind us and give us a big lift. The atmosphere will be electric and we've got to be bit more on the front foot and take the game to Aston Villa."

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