Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos. Scroll down for managers' reactions.
Peter Odemwingie’s late equaliser earned West Brom a share of the spoils as Aston Villa let slip a two-goal lead to remain in the Barclays Premier League bottom three.
Christian Benteke opened the scoring with a superb finish and Gabriel Agbonlahor doubled Villa’s lead before half-time, but the tone of the match changed early in the second half when Albion skipper Chris Brunt pulled a goal back and Odemwingie pulled his side level with a volley seven minutes from time.
Villa dominated the opening 45 minutes, with Charles N’Zogbia in superb form as he produced one of his best performances for the midlands club. The winger demonstrated the quality which had helped to keep Wigan in the top flight before his move to Villa during the summer of 2011 and set up the opening two goals.
Agbonlahor has a habit of scoring in local derbies and also looked back to his best as Villa controlled proceedings, but the home side were transformed after the break with Odemwingie, reportedly a transfer target for Queens Park Rangers, looking a constant threat.
The home side started promisingly and Odemwingie’s low centre picked out Romelu Lukaku, whose first-time shot was deflected wide by fit-again Villa captain Ron Vlaar. Villa were then forced into a fifth-minute substitution when defender Nathan Baker limped out of the action to be replaced by Eric Lichaj.
Lukaku was looking sharp and a dipping low cross from the on-loan Chelsea player was cut out by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, but after 12 minutes a stunning strike from Benteke, Lukaku’s fellow Belgian international, put Villa ahead.
N’ Zogbia found Villa’s summer signing on the edge of the box and he turned past Claudio Yacob before firing an unstoppable rising shot past Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster for his 10th goal of the campaign.
Albion tried to retaliate and an overhead kick from James Morrison flew straight at Guzan, and tempers became frayed as Baggies defender Jonas Olsson and Villa’s Agbonlahor were booked after squaring up to each other.
Villa continued to pose problems for their local rivals and doubled their lead with Agbonlahor’s fifth goal of the season just past the half-hour mark. N’Zogbia again supplied the telling pass and Agbonlahor wriggled past Gareth McAuley before beating Foster with a low drive into the corner of the net.
Matters worsened for the visitors as, four minutes later, Yacob, who had just returned from a lengthy lay-off with a hamstring injury, appeared to injure his arm and had to be replaced by Jerome Thomas.
Dorrans was not far off target from 20 yards but Villa were coping relatively comfortably with the threat of the home side with N’Zogbia a constant danger as he teed up another opportunity for Lichaj, whose shot was blocked by Foster.
However, the Baggies began the second half with more purpose and reduced the arrears after 49 minutes. Thomas’s low cross was held up and turned back by Lukaku into the path of the onrushing Brunt, who curled a sumptuous 15-yard first-time shot in off the post with his left foot.
Lichaj and Matt Lowton were yellow carded for chopping down Thomas and Odemwingie respectively as the home side pushed for an equaliser. Then Graham Dorrans went into referee Lee Probert’s notebook for fouling Agbonlahor.
Albion thought they had found their equaliser when McAuley’s header was cleared off the line by Joe Bennett, and Odemwingie then nicked the ball past Guzan but shot over from a narrow angle. A growing threat to Villa’s defence the Nigeria international was also only inches off target with a stinging drive.
But he was not to be denied and after 83 minutes brought Albion level. McAuley headed a Brunt corner back across goal and Odemwingie reacted first to volley past Guzan on the half turn.
West Bromwich Albionmanager Steve Clarke: “It was a disappointing first half and as a consequence we let our supporters down. Second half was much better, much more what I expect from my team. We got about the game, played well and created a number of chances and I think we deserved to get something from the game.
“The first goal came out of the blue a little bit, it was a fantastic finish from Benteke and that seemed to set us back a little bit. We’re not in the best moment, we had a great first half to the season but recently we’ve struggled to find that same rhythm and momentum. But once we regrouped at half-time and reassured the players that if they played the way they can play the third goal was always going to be crucial. It came to us and gave us the momentum to finish the game well.
“After what happened to us at Reading last week when we were on the wrong end of a comeback it was nice to be the team in the ascendancy in the second half. We pushed for the winner but it wouldn’t quite fall for us in the box and being honest if you look at the first-half performance it probably wasn’t good enough to get the three points tonight but we’re pleased with a point.
“I’m sure for the people watching it was entertaining, open, exciting, but when you’re sitting on the bench I don’t think ‘enjoyment’’s the word that springs to mind but I was pleased with the team in the second half, they showed a lot of character. They’ve got a strong belief that we can do well this season, they work ever so hard week in week out and I’m pleased they got some reward.
“We’ve got no plans to let anybody go out during this [transfer] window and we’ve got no plans to bring anybody in.”
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "I thought we were excellent in the first-half. We should have been out of sight, it should have been finished. We should have been four-up. That would have killed the game. The way we played in the first-half was excellent.
"In the second half West Brom came out strongly but you expect that. They are the home side. It was disappointing not to win the game because we should have been finished in the first-half. Gabby [Agbonlahor] had a good chance to make it three in the second-half. But the game is never over until it's over. West Brom are a good side. People shouldn't forget that. They very rarely get beat here. The first-half it should have been finished.
“Charles [N'Zogbia] is a real talent, a real, real talent. He goes past people as if they're not that at times. I would like to see him shoot more because he has the ability to do it. In the first-half he was excellent. He wasn't injured when I bought him off. He's back from a long lay-off so you have to watch him. We have games coming up. We have to protect him. We lost Fabian [Delph] to an injury and Nathan [Baker] too."
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