Anwar El Ghazi’s brace helped Aston Villa ease past 10- man West Brom in a 3-0 victory over their West Midlands rivals at The Hawthorns.
Two goals from El Ghazi and one from Bertrand Traore continued Villa’s excellent form on the road in a dominating performance which ensured there was no dream start for Sam Allardyce at West Brom.
After the surprising sacking of Slaven Bilic during the week, survival specialist, Allardyce was in the dugout of his eighth Premier League club and his first game as Baggies boss. Although his tenure got off to the worst possible start as his side fell behind in the opening five minutes.
Ollie Watkins headed down a long ball to Traore who did well to shift the ball onto his left and curl a cross towards the back post where El Ghazi was on hand to stab the ball past the Albion goalkeeper for the opener.
After missing Thursday’s goalless draw at home to Burnley through suspension, Matty Cash returned to the starting 11. His ball back post to Watkins almost doubled Villa’s lead but the striker was unable to keep his header below the bar.
The home side’s pursuit of an equaliser was dealt a huge blow when their skipper, Jake Livermore was shown a red card for dangerous play- the Baggies third in the league this season.
The midfielder lunged into a tackle on Grealish and after Martin Atkinson was advised to check the pitch side monitor, the original yellow card was overturned and a red was shown after 36 minutes.
The West Brom bench felt Kortney Hause was fortunate to escape red for a tackle on Grady Diangana to which he was shown a yellow card. VAR reviewed the tackle but deemed there was no need for the referee to view the incident.
The Villans started the second half with complete dominance and almost doubled their lead five minutes after the restart.
Grealish picked up the ball from a Watkins knockdown and drove into the box before finding McGinn whose diving header went narrowly wide of the post to Albion’s relief.
Villa continued their control of the game and pushed for a second with their captain once again showing his creative excellence. Following tidy footwork on the edge of the box, Grealish played in Watkins who forced Johnstone into action at his near post on the hour mark.
Apart from a dangerous looking break just after the hour, West Brom did little to trouble the Villa defence and went the whole 90 minutes without registering a shot on target.
It looked as though Villa had increased their lead twenty minutes from the end when Watkins converted Cash’s ball across goal.
The celebrations were ended by the intervention of VAR who ruled Watkins to be in an offside position as he made his run, denying the striker what would have been his seventh league goal of the season.
Although the game was put to bed with seven minutes remaining when Traore netted his first Premier League goal for the club. Grealish found the Burkina Faso international on the edge of the box who cut in and rolled his effort stylishly into the bottom corner past an unmoved Johnstone.
Villa continued to bombard the host’s penalty area in the closing stages and added a third only three minutes later from the penalty spot when Grealish was tripped on his entrance to the box
El Ghazi stepped up and in the same way as against Wolves, converted his spot kick to round off a truly dominating performance.
West Brom were deflated and having already two goals to his name, El Ghazi found himself free in the box again. However, he was deprived his hat trick by the Albion shot stopper who tipped his powerful strike over the bar.
The win continues Dean Smith’s side’s rise up the table where they will enjoy their highest Premier League table position at Christmas since the 09/10 season when they sat in fourth place- the same campaign Villa qualified for Europe.
Villa fantastic away results carry on as they claimed their fifth win in six games from which they’ve only failed to keep a clean sheet in one. The Villans entertain Crystal Palace on Boxing Day as they look to remain knocking on the door of a European place.