The final whistle blew amidst confusion and frustration. Calamity reigned at the Hawthorns as the West Bromwich faithful celebrated a point (well earned?). Villa fans surrounded the ref. It didn’t matter. The game had ended.
And what a game it was, for the most part.
Aston Villa took the lead in a hostile atmosphere during the late kick off. Anwar El Ghazi’s weak curling shot took a cruel deflection off the stoic and stout Ahmed Hegazi to bamboozel Sam Johnstone in the West Brom goal. The Baggies came back quickly through Dwight Gayle, who owed Harvey Barnes his equaliser. The Leicester loanee got the better of a scrambling Alan Hutton to fizz a ball through to Gayle - who could do nothing less than put the ball past Ørjan Nyland.
The two rivals shared the spoils as the whistle for half-time was called. Villa seemed fairly content to hold onto a point, with West Brom throwing everything at containing their rivals.
However, Villa were able to improve and create some massive chances - chances spurned by recently crowned Player of the Month Tammy Abraham, who was incredibly unfortunate not to bury WBA in the second half.
It was El Ghazi who would step up to the plate once more - after a full performance of rampant running and tracking back, the loan winger slammed a wicked ball into the top corner to give Villa the lead.
Villa found energy, but as the final whistle approached, so would calamity.
Jonathan Kodjia lost Matt Phillips on the wing, and Phillips whipped a ball into the area. The ball fell to a collapsing Jay Rodriguez who took the ball away from Ørjan Nyland with his arm. Continuing his fall, Rodriguez smothered the ball with his wrist which propelled it into an empty net. The West Brom striker lay still on the floor, believing his goal to be inelegible - but it wasn’t. A goal that stole everything from Villa. A goal, that was made ever the more sour by the fact that James Rodriguez immediately admitted that his equaliser was handballed into the net in a post-match interview.
Was it the fault of Kodjia, who lost his man? Or Nyland (who Lee Hendrie claimed should not have claimed the ball to seal the match, but punched it back into the box)? Maybe. But Kodjia couldn’t have stopped it, and would we ask Nyland to leave his goal to claim a ball? Is it his fault that an arm took the ball from him in a crowded box? Who knows. The goal shouldn’t have been given and the keeper was taken out. Who knows. The rule book lays bent. What is the point of discussing it? The point of discussing a clear foul, not given? If Nyland punches, do WBA go on to score a legitimate effort? Who knows? Who cares? But surely a striker handballing TWICE to take the ball from him in the 90th minute isn’t the sort of situation that is the fault of the goalkeeper?
It would have been easy to flag for a foul, but hey - maybe it’s fate. Maybe it’s right that WBA took a point after Villa wasted some good chances? All we know is that Villa are still on the right path.