West Brom stunned by Keinan Davis’s late leveller for Aston Villa
A West Midlands derby high on entertainment value ended in a result of little worth to either side, least of all Sam Allardyce’s, who remain deep in relegation trouble and racked by familiar regrets. Costly mistakes undermined bright work by West Brom, who let victory slip two minutes into stoppage time when Keinan Davis pounced on another defensive error to claim his first Premier League goal and push West Brom closer to the Championship.
West Brom had presented their hosts with an early penalty, which Anwar El Ghazi converted, but recovered well to earn the lead. Matheus Pereira equalised from the spot before Tyrone Mings diverted a shot by Mbaye Diagne into his own goal two minutes into the second half. The visitors kept their noses in front as the sides traded blows but they failed to hold out for victory, crumbling just short of full time when Davis punished hesitancy by Kyle Bartley.
West Brom are nine points below 17th-placed Brighton with five matches left. Survival is not impossible but requires a freakish series of results. “We can’t have any slip-ups now,” said Allardyce. “All we can do is keep playing the way we played here. The lads showed real spirit after a dodgy start, which may have been down to the position we’re in. We didn’t go under, we came storming back. Unfortunately we didn’t get the third goal and it was our mistake for their equaliser but I can’t be too critical of the players for that performance. We’ll keep fighting.”
Dean Smith said: “A point was the least we deserved. It would have been a travesty if we’d got beaten.”
West Brom fell behind in less than eight minutes after their latest defensive mistake in a season when they have been slipshod far too often. Semi Ajayi’s misjudgment was not the most egregious but it amounted to a needless foul in the box, as the centre-back clipped Ross Barkley after being beaten to a loose ball when Conor Gallagher blocked a shot by El Ghazi. That shot came at the end of an excellent move by Villa featuring several cute touches by Ollie Watkins. El Ghazi sent Sam Johnstone the wrong way from the spot.
Barkley had been entrusted with a start for the first time since February as Smith continued to search for a way to mitigate the absence of Jack Grealish, without whom Villa have mustered 10 points from a possible 30.
Villa failed to build on their positive start. Pereira, wonderful throughout, threatened to equalise almost immediately but curled a free-kick over the bar from the edge of the box. He soon got a better opportunity when Ezri Konsa was harshly penalised for tapping Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s ankle. “If that’s a penalty, we might have to start coaching non-contact football for next season,” said Smith. Pereira took full advantage from the spot.
That lifted the visitors. They nearly helped themselves to the lead two minutes later when Okay Yokuslu – who again commanded central midfield – guided a header inches wide of the post.
Emi Martínez had to bat away a shot from 18 yards by Maitland-Niles after more good work by Pereira, who, two minutes later, beat the keeper with an inswinging free-kick from the left, only for it to bounce out off the crossbar.
Two minutes into the second half West Brom took the lead and Konsa’s evening took a turn for the worse. The defender, nigh-on flawless for most of this season, slipped after taking down a punt by Johnstone, allowing Diagne to run on to the ball and into the left-hand side of the box. Mings slid in to block the striker’s low shot from 10 yards but could only divert it into the net.
Villa eventually found fluency. Matt Targett, curbed by Pereira in the first half, was as creative as any home player with his bursts down the left. His cross in the 58th minute found its way to Barkley, whose shot from 18 yards was deflected wide. Ahmed Elmohamady then forced a save from Johnstone with a terrific volley from similar range. Bertrand Traoré’s struck the outside of the post from an acute angle. Watkins could have scored after being sent clear by John McGinn but fired straight at Johnstone.
Konsa’s troubles continued when he inadvertently headed a corner by West Brom towards his own goal but Martínez reacted brilliantly to push it on to the post. Then Davis, introduced as a substitute, thrashed a shot against the upright at the other end. The striker was not deterred. When Bartley dithered after Watkins headed across goal in stoppage time, Davis prodded the ball into the net from close range.