- Aston Villa 2, Albion 0
Albion went down to their first away defeat of the Premier League campaign after late goals by Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings at Villa Park.
In his 100th game in charge, Graham Potter saw his side dominate proceedings for long spells.
Albion were twice denied a goal in the first half by Villa keeper Emi Martinez’s reflexes with Leandro Trossard and the impressive Tariq Lamptey kept at bay.
In truth there had been little to suggest a goal at either end in the second half until a break down the left ended with Watkins curling his right-foot shot expertly beyond Jason Steele. If that was harsh on Albion, the late second added by England defender Mings merely added to their frustration. Albion had done little wrong but the fine margins went Villa's way.
Albion made four changes to the team which drew with Newcastle last time out with Steele, Adam Webster, Jakub Moder and Pascal Gross coming into the team. Rob Sanchez served a one-match ban, Solly March and Joel Veltman dropped to the bench and Enock Mwepu missed out with a muscle strain. Albion lined up in a 5-3-1-1 with Adam Lallana supporting Leandro Trossard with Gross on the right of the midfield trio.
Steven Gerrard got a raucous welcome from the Villa faithful as he made to the dugout for the first time as manager and the home side made a predictably fast start, with Steele smothering Matty Cash's 12th minute header after Ollie Watkins had crossed from the left, a nice confidence-boosting moment for a player making his Premier League bow for the club.
But as they got into their stride Albion quietened the crowd and began to look the more threatening side.
One great cross-field right-to-left move ended with Marc Cucurella’s testing ball into the box only just eluding Trossard. Steele was out quickly to smother the ball at Danny Ings’ feet but that was a rare moment of alarm in the first half for Albion, who had two great chances to break the deadlock.
On both occasions Villa were indebted to keeper Emi Martinez, who instinctively parried Trossard’s first-time shot from the corner of the six-yard box before making an even better save in stoppage time. Moder’s cross was flicked on by Trossard into the path of Tariq Lamptey but Martinez saved instinctively with his right arm. Lamptey had been increasingly prominent as the half progressed and most of the noise from the crowd was made by Albion fans.
Steele made an important save early in the second half when he pushed away Watkins’ header after he had directed John McGinn’s free kick back across goal but as they had in the first half Albion began to dictate things.
Cucurella, who had been booked, was replaced by Solly March and straight away the substitute was involved in a contentious moment when Cash went tumbling in the box with March in hot pursuit. Villa fans howled for a penalty, but referee Taylor waved play on.
Neal Maupay came on for the last nine minutes with Gross taking over from Lamptey and Albion sensed there could be a goal in it for them. But with six minutes left a move broke down on the edge of the Villa D. Ashley Young’s pass left Villa with a two-on-one break and Watkins cut in on his right foot before sweeping his shot into the top right-hand corner.
A minute from time it was 2-0. Webster inadvertently cleared McGinn’s cross into the path of Mings and the defender fired past Steele. Incredibly, Steele had to make a flying save to push away Leon Bailey’s spectacular volley and prevent Albion from conceding a third in stoppage time.
Albion: Steele, Lamptey (Maupay 79), Dunk, Webster, Duffy, Cucurella (March 64), Gross (Mac Allister 88), Bissouma, Moder, Lallana, Trossard.
Subs not used: Scherpen, Mac Allister, Locadia, Richards, Burn, Veltman, Sarmiento.
Referee: Anthony Taylor