FA Cup: Resurgent Aston Villa down Albion to reach semi-finals
Aston Villa booked a place in the FA Cup semi-finals as goals from Fabian Delph and Scott Sinclair sealed a feisty 2-0 victory over local rivals West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Tim Sherwood`s team made it two wins against Albion in just five days thanks to Delph and Sinclair`s second half strikes, while Baggies midfielder Claudio Yacob and Villa substitute Jack Grealish were both sent off late on in a fiercely-contested derby at Villa Park.
Yet the quarter-final triumph was marred by controversial scenes in the final moments when a mass pitch invasion took place which is likely to land Villa in trouble with the authorities.
It will be the first time Villa have been to Wembley in five years, their last appearance coming in an FA Cup semi-final in 2010 when they were beaten by Chelsea.
This was the second instalment of a double header between the neighbours over the space of four days, with Christian Benteke`s injury-time penalty having handed Villa a 2-1 victory in the Premier League.
If the nature of that success had not been sufficient to heighten tensions, then Villa manager Sherwood`s claim that "they will "have to improve to stop us" - following on from his reference to Albion as a "good little club" merely fuelled the fires further.
One blow for Villa was the enforced absence of Benteke through a hip injury suffered in training on Friday, prompting Sherwood to play Gabriel Agbonlahor as a lone striker.
Those opening 45 minutes certainly failed to live up to those of the second half, yet Pulis will look back on Brown Ideye`s ninth-minute miss - a woeful attempt over the crossbar when Craig Gardner`s cross picked him out unmarked eight yards out - as a key moment in the contest.Whatever Sherwood said at half-time, it had an impact as his team were re-energised upon resumption.
Five minutes after the restart Leandro Bacuna and Charles N`Zogbia combined well down the Villa right to work a sight of goal for the Dutchman, however his tame shot was straight at Myhill.
There was to be no such let off for the visitors just a minute later, however.
Once again, N`Zogbia was involved as he cut inside from the same wing before spotting Delph`s unchecked run and the midfielder`s low driven strike was too powerful for Myhill to hold.
Albion almost drew level in the 57th minute when Craig Gardner`s whipped corner was inadvertently flicked on to the back post by Tom Cleverley towards the unmarked Joleon Lescott, yet he headed the wrong side of the right post.
Albion boss Tony Pulis, head in hands, could not hide his frustration and there was more woe to follow when a fine save from Given denied Saido Berahino.
Villa continued to pose the bigger threat, with Albion midfielder Gardner hitting his own crossbar with a sliding clearance.
Yacob`s dismissal in the 80th minute for a second bookable offence proved a controversial and decisive moment, the midfielder harshly adjudged to have stamped on Leandro Bacuna.
Villa made their additional man swiftly count with Grealish`s measured pass set Sinclair away on the counter-attack and this time he was to make no mistake, calmly cutting inside Chris Brunt before wonderfully curling a shot inside the right post.
Grealish`s night ended on a low, however, when he too was dismissed for a second bookable offence after referee Anthony Taylor decided he had dived after taking the ball beyond Lescott.
Then the chaos ensued as hordes of fans flooded onto the field before the final whistle, with stewards required to gather them up before play was allowed to resume.
Predictably, Taylor`s final whistle was greeted with a mass pitch invasion as the celebrations quickly got into full swing, yet the scenes are likely to land Villa in trouble.