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Aston Villa beats West Brom 2-1

Aston Villa struck twice inside three second-half minutes to earn themselves the advantage in their first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final with West Bromwich Albion.

Substitute Conor Hourihane’s brilliant 25-yarder and then a Tammy Abraham penalty turned the tie on its head following Dwight Gayle’s first-half strike.

But the real tipping point of the two-leg contest may have come two minutes from the end of normal time when Baggies striker Gayle was sent off for sliding in late on Villa keeper Jed Steer.

Having got away with a similarly committed challenge on the halfway line not long earlier, he was this time shown his second yellow card of the game by referee Graham Scott.

Although West Brom’s 10 men survived the seven minutes of added time, the effect of Gayle’s dismissal may be more keenly felt on Tuesday when Albion’s top scorer will now be suspended for the second leg at The Hawthorns.

Having opted to go with three central defenders and with Jay Rodriguez in a more withdrawn role, Albion effectively operated for the majority of the game with six-man midfield.

And it worked well until Hourihane scored, eight minutes after coming on for Glenn Whelan as part of a double substitution, to help make up for the error made by his fellow midfielder in the build-up to Albion’s goal.

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