Albion suffered their third successive Premier League defeat after a goal in each half enabled Villa to complete the double over Graham Potter’s men.
Matty Cash put the visitors ahead after a bright start by Albion and Ollie Watkins doubled their advantage with a well-taken goal midway through the second half.
Alexis Mac Allister hit the bar shortly after Cash’s goal and Albion dominated the offensive stats. But on an afternoon of fine margins they couldn’t break down a well-organised Villa defence in front of an Amex record crowd of 31475.
Albion lined up in a 3-5-2 with Tariq Lamptey and Solly March operating as wing-backs and they made a lively start after kick-off had been delayed for 30 minutes because Villa’s arrival was delayed by traffic congestion on the A23.
The hosts swarmed around Villa’s goal in the opening stages as they took control of midfield and dominated possession. Jakub Moder’s deflected shot nearly dropped for Leandro Trossard in the six-yard box and both Lamptey and March got into some promising positions.
So it was a shock to the Albion fans when Villa went in front on 18 minutes. Cash picked up a loose ball 20 yards from goal and his right-foot volley from the right-hand corner of the box flew past Rob Sanchez and went in off the far post.
Albion should have levelled three minutes later. Marc Cucurella, who had been booked earlier for bringing down John McGinn, found Solly March in space down the left and he got into the box before laying the ball back to Alexis Mac Allister 12 yards out. The midfielder struck it well enough with his right foot, but the ball skimmed the bar and went over. It turned out to be Albion’s best chance of the afternoon.
Joel Veltman produced a brilliantly-timed interception in the six-yard box to prevent Jacob Murphy from pulling the trigger and Sanchez blocked a close-range effort by McGinn but it became a feisty encounter and referee John Brooks ended up showing nine yellow cards, including one for Cash who had celebrated his goal by revealing a t-shirt supporting a Poland team-mate who plays for Dynamo Kyiv.
Sanchez produced a wonderful save on 50 minutes when he plunged to his right to keep out Philippe Coutinho’s free kick from the left-hand corner of the box.
The game became increasingly scrappy with lots of fouls and little momentum built by either side. Danny Welbeck replaced Moder on 63 minutes but five minutes later Villa doubled their lead. Veltman misjudged a long ball down the left by Lucas Digne and Watkins got in behind before beating Sanchez with a left-foot shot.
Albion nearly responded straight away. Solly March picked out Welbeck with his cross but the striker couldn’t direct his header on target and with 11 minutes to go Neal Maupay forced Emi Martinez to push away a shot which was heading for the bottom corner.
Albion kept going but couldn’t break through. They remain tenth in the table with a trip to Newcastle United to come next Saturday.
Albion: Sanchez, Lamptey, Veltman, Dunk, Cucurella, March, Bissouma, Moder (Welbeck 63), Mac Allister, Trossard, Maupay. Subs: Steele, Gross, Alzate, Duffy, Caicedo, Leonard, Offiah, Ferguson.
Referee: John Brookes
Booked: Cucurella, Veltman, Bissouma, Trossard.