Tammy Abraham’s winning goal took Aston Villa one step closer to a Premier League return as they beat West Bromwich Albion in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals, but there is work to do for his fellow loanees at Derby County after their defeat to Leeds United.
The match at Villa Park was Abraham’s first since dislocating his shoulder against Bolton Wanderers on 19 April and the home side’s top scorer picked up where he left off, hitting the back of the net in his third consecutive appearance and getting his 26th goal overall this season.
However, despite Villa – who have Chelsea legend John Terry as their assistant manager – dominating possession throughout the first leg of this semi-final, it had looked like it wouldn’t be their day as Dwight Gayle gave West Brom the lead after 16 minutes, and the Baggies defence held out under heavy pressure for most of the game.
The match was quickly turned on its head with 15 minutes left, though, as Villa scored twice in the space of three minutes to take the lead themselves. First Conor Hourihane drilled in a low equaliser from 25 yards, and then Jack Grealish was brought down in the box by Kieran Gibbs for a Villa penalty.
Abraham stepped up to the spot, with the Villa fans chanting his name as he prepared to take the kick, but showed great composure to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and slot the ball into the bottom corner, completing a brilliant turnaround for the home side.
Amazingly, that was Abraham’s 20th league goal at Villa Park this season, making him the first player to score that number at home in a single Championship campaign since Glenn Murray for Crystal Palace in 2012/13.
Villa could even have had more, with Abraham’s hold-up play in particular helping to create some late chances, but even with West Brom reduced to 10 men following a red card for their goalscorer Gayle in the closing stages, it finished 2-1.
However, things didn’t go to planned at Pride Park for Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount, where both players were in Frank Lampard’s starting line-up as Derby hosted Leeds, who had their own Chelsea youngster Izzy Brown on the bench, in the first leg of their semi.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the Rams as they struggled to create chances against the side which finished third in the Championship, failing to test goalkeeper Kiko Casilla throughout.
It took until the 55th minute for either side to manage a shot on target as the defences looked on top, but unfortunately for Derby it also brought the game’s only goal, as Kemar Roofe made it 1-0 to Leeds.
There was controversy with just over 10 minutes left to play, when referee Craig Pawson awarded the home team a penalty, only to then reverse his decision after consulting with his assistant, much to Derby’s frustration.
Abraham and the Villans will now take their lead into the second leg of their semi at The Hawthorns on Tuesday evening, before Mount and Tomori attempt to help Derby overturn the deficit at Elland Road a day later. The two winners will meet at Wembley in the final on 27 May with a place in the Premier League up for grabs.