Shane Long hits brace but West Brom let it slip
Ashley Westwood scores his first Aston Villa goal to earn his side a vital point at The Hawthorns
West Brom’s Shane Long opens the scoring in last night’s Premier League game against Aston Villa at the Hawthorns. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA
Ashley Westwood could hardly have picked a better moment to score his first Aston Villa goal. Looking dead and buried at the interval after a first half when they were unable to deal with the effervescent presence of Shane Long, Villa completed a stirring comeback when Westwood ensured this West Midlands derby ended with honours even for the fourth time in succession.
It was role reversal from the corresponding fixture last season, when Villa raced into a two-goal lead only to be pegged back by Albion in the second half. Paul Lambert deserves credit for the substitutions that transformed Villa, although Albion will rue their failure to build on two outstanding goals from Long that had put them in a commanding position.
Stephane Sessegnon will feel more frustrated than anyone. He squandered a gilt-edged chance in the first half, when Albion were leading 2-0, and another presentable chance at a critical juncture in the game in the second half. Karim El Ahmadi pulled a goal back for Villa shortly afterwards, setting the stage for Westwood to strike a fine equaliser.
The match was only 11 minutes old when Long’s name was reverberating around the stadium. At that stage the Albion forward had already struck twice and Villa were in a state of disarray. When Sessegnon missed an absolute sitter in the 19th minute to put Albion three-nil up, it seemed bizarre to think that Villa had come into the game with the best defensive away record in the league.
Playing like a man possessed, Long terrorised Villa’s backline with his aggressive running. His first goal, after only three minutes, was an absolute beauty. Chris Brunt delivered a raking 50-yard pass that Long, stretching out his right leg, brought down with a wonderful piece of close control. He took one more touch to shift the ball on to his left foot, taking Nathan Baker out of the game in the process, before drilling a left-footed shot that fizzed into the bottom corner of the net. It was a goal of the highest calibre.
If Baker failed to cover himself in glory on that occasion, Leandro Bacuna was guilty of an even worse piece of defending in the lead-up to the second goal. The Dutchman, looking every inch a midfielder that has been turned into a right-back, carelessly gave away possession deep inside his own half with a dreadful pass that never looked like finding Baker.
Long, razor-sharp, pounced on the ball, beat Baker with a clever dummy and had the composure to execute a pitching wedge of a chip over the head of Brad Guzan and into the net off the underside of the bar. “Two-nil to the smaller club,” sang Albion’s jubilant supporters, responding to Lambert’s pre-match comments.
Sessegnon was again guilty of profligacy when, after being set up for a second time by Amalfitano, he side-footed over the bar. The significance of that miss became clear moments later when El Ahmadi scored.
Then in the 76th minute Westwood took a touch before striking a glorious 25-yard shot that flashed inside Myhill’s near post.