Fifteen minutes is enough time for a team's play-off chances to be completely destroyed, as West Brom found on Saturday. Only up to the 75th minute after Dwight Gayle's opener only to drop it all apart and leave them without much hope as Gayle himself.
First came Conor Hourihane's equalizer before Tammy Abraham converted a penalty – Jack Grealish played his part in both: Gayle was then sent off for a second yellow card when he infused Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer.
Tuesday night at Hawthorns promises more drama and excitement, but now we have a much better idea of who will make it to Wembley later this month.
Tammy Abraham completed the comeback of Aston Villa when they defeated West Brom in their championship play-off semi-final first leg
The Chelsea loaner showed great brevity in sending Sam Johnstone in the wrong way and putting Villa ahead in the & # 39; e band
Replacement Conor Hourihane hit a sensational 25-yard effort after a lay-off by Jack Grealish to bring Villa level
Hourihane sprints away in & # 39; celebration after & # 39; he saw his effort in & # 39; fly the corner of the goal and send the home fans wild
Dwight Gayle capitalized on a terrible mistake by Aston Villa's Glenn Whelan to give the Baggies the lead after 16 minutes
Gayle goes after scoring the first goal when the thousands of West Brom traveling fans went wild in the progress
Gayle went from hero to zero after he was later sent to pick up a second yellow card for a foul on goalkeeper Jed Steer
ASTON VILLA (4-3-3): Steer 6; Elmohamady 6, Tuanzebe 6, Mings 6, Taylor 6; McGinn 6, Whelan 5.5 (Hourihane 67, 7.5), Grealish 8; Adomah 6.5 (Green 67, 6.5), Abraham 7, El Ghazi 6.5 (Cod 90 + 1)
Subs not used: Jedinak, Davis, Kalinic, Home.
Goals: Hourihane 75, Abraham 79
Admin: Dean Smith
WEST BROM (3-5-2): Johnstone 6; Dawson 6 (Mears 46, 6), Bartley 6, Hegazi 6; Holgate 6, Phillips 6 (Murphy 66, 6), Johansen 6 (Morrison 85), Brown 6, Gibbs 6; Gayle 6.5, Rodriguez 6
Subs not used: Townsend, Montero, Bond, field.
Purpose: Gayle 16
Booked: Holgate, Gayle, Hegazi, Gibbs
Admin: Jimmy Shan
Referee: Graham Scott
& # 39; We go there to win the game, & # 39; said Villa manager Dean Smith. & # 39; We played that and I don't want us to stop doing that.
& # 39; But this game is not over. We have won one game of football, now we have to play another game of football. & # 39;
The stakes couldn't be higher and Villa knew just how much it hurt if the chance of promotion slipped away like last year's & # 39; play-off final against Fulham.
They also know that not being promoted this year could also result in losing Grealish. Super Jack, as he is known around these parts, has developed into a creative midfielder who is able to score and score goals regularly.
He is integral to & # 39; the way of & # 39; Smith's side and starts attacking as often as he gathers the ball deep – as he did in the early stages of the game before being clipped by Stefan Johansen – as he aims to deliver shine further on the field .
There is a trust in Grealish and that is possibly the reason they sometimes appear so naive in attack. His teammates and supporters seem to expect him to do everything here. Indeed he did eventually, but there were periods when Villa needed a different outball than anyone else to take responsibility. Similar responsibility as what Smith reminded them of before going on a winning 10-game streak that didn't bring them to the play-offs.
However, there is a certain irony, in Villa who would rather attack with pace and drive than Glenn Whelan, seated deep in a midfield three, both missed and can be blamed for it. Cute passions look neat when they come off, but if they don't, you can be made to look very stupid. And when Whelan's bad touch took a few passes and again with Grealish, he gave the ball away to Gayle. The 28-year-old, who has scored 24 goals this season, was alert and bursting forward before shooting past Steer.
Both sets of players were greeted on the field by an unusual atmosphere and beautiful banner draped across one stand
Villa winger Albert Adomah challenges Kieran Gibbs for the ball during a feisty opening a few minutes on Saturday afternoon
Whelan could only follow because he failed to properly control a pass, allowing Gayle to score the opening goal of the tie
Gayle runs on the loose ball to Whelan's error before throwing the ball into the back of the net past Steer
Villa defenders Tyrone Mings and Axel Tuanzebe tried to close Gayle, but he was too fast and hit a wonderful effort
Gayle celebrates scoring its first goal with Jay Rodriguez and teammates after a flying start from Jimmy Shan's side
Villa's response promised a lot, but produced little time.
In the 30 minutes that followed West Brom's goal, they were well in control.
They looked at the ball easily. Grealish continued to be the heart of the scene, switching with Tammy Abraham while also connecting the rest of the midfield.
Sometimes they played with a back three with Whelan in defense, while Neil Taylor and Ahmed Elmohamady went ahead.
It was overloaded West Brom who wasn't willing to position themselves elsewhere than their own half.
They also had to be focused on Grealish and those who quickly broke through fear of Villa finding a way into their penalty area.
Mason Holgate flies in a challenge on well-known Villa midfielder John McGinn, to stop neither of them early
Mighty West Brom defender Kyle Bartley wrestles with Villa striker Tammy Abraham as they compete for an air ball
Informed striker Abraham cut a frustrated figure in & # 39; the first half after & # 39; he had difficulty making an impact in & # 39; e attacking third
Villa captain Jack Grealish also saw his impact on the game limited by a resolute West Brom view in the first half
Gayle was lucky to avoid injury after he got close to getting a boot on Mings head to a cross to the back post
Tempers bloomed early in the second half with Stefan Johansen (C) and was sandwiched between Abraham and Grealish
Grealish became more and more focused and it took several attempts by Johansen to cut the ankles of Villa captain for referee Graham Scott to warn him. Of the four West Brom players who were booked, Johansen never went into the book.
There were seven fouls in the first half and seven more came in the & # 39; e second. Grealish didn't exclude – that's not his style – no, but his determination to punish West Brom only got stronger with each kick and shove that didn't come his way.
And when Conor Hourihane scrambled back to win the ball after Gayle tried to play in Jay Rodriguez, the home team asked Villa to go against it and eventually got the ball to Grealish's feet .
Grealish appeared to have a dead end in & # 39; penalty, but then Hourihane found on & # 39; letting an edge go unnoticed
Hourihane, who was in no doubt about starting the game, sprints to the corner to celebrate with his teammates and fans
Abraham, who had difficulty influencing the game, picked up the ball and pushed Villa ahead in the semi-finals
The English striker roars with pleasure as the & # 39; s fans continued to take a lead in & # 39; e return from Tuesday
Villa boss Dean Smith was all smiles on his touchline after seeing his side one step closer to the Premier League
The 23-year-old initially ran into traffic in West Brom's box, but then returned and saw Hourihane. He slid the ball towards him and the midfielder hit cleanly in the corner. Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone did not move. Grealish wasn't prepared for Villa's resume to stop there. He sprinted again in the West Brom box and was brought down by Kieran Gibbs. Scott pointed to the spot and Abraham sent out his penalty in the left bottom corner. His 26th goal of the season.
Then it was time for one last twist: Gayle sent off for a late challenge on Steer. It was sluggish and carefree, meaning a key component of West Brom's lack of attack for the second leg.
& # 39; It's a big blow for us, & # 39; said West Brom care manager James Shan. & # 39; But the beauty is that we have 90 minutes to go and perform and turn around. & # 39;
. (tagsToTranslate) dailymail (t) sport (t) football (t) West Bromwich Albion (t) Aston Villa (t) Football League Championship