West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa: The firefighter is engulfed
Sam Allardyce’s reign at West Brom got off to a miserable start as the 10-man Baggies slumped to a wretched defeat against Aston Villa.
Anwar El Ghazi’s double and Bertrand Traore’s sublime strike earned the visitors a dominant 3-0 derby win.
Jake Livermore’s first-half dismissal for a reckless challenge on Jack Grealish – upgraded from a yellow card after a VAR review – added to the nightmare for Allardyce.
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Second-bottom Albion have just seven points – no Premier League team has had fewer than eight points after 14 matches and avoided the drop.
Villa climbed to ninth, three points behind the top five with two games in hand, after their deserved victory.
Dean Smith’s side have recovered from four defeats in five to win at Wolves and now The Hawthorns.
Yet there appears to be no quick recovery for Albion, who ripped up the blueprint built under Slaven Bilic when they turned to Allardyce.
The former England manager faces a monumental task to stop the Baggies slipping back to the Championship again.
And, after two and a half years out of management, it got harder when Vila struck after just five minutes.
The hosts were guilty of switching off and Traore was given too much time to hang a far-post cross for El Ghazi, who lost Darnell Furlong to finish from close range.
Albion never settled, with John McGinn firing over and Ollie Watkins nodding wide in a comfortable opening 25 minutes for the visitors.
The hosts lacked cohesion and while Villa were far from fluid they were happy to let the Baggies play in front of them.
Albion never looked like they would hit back and Allardyce’s night got worse when Livermore was dismissed eight minutes before the break.
The midfielder launched into a reckless lunge on Grealish, despite Albion having just won a free-kick, and Martin Atkinson initially showed him a yellow card.
VAR intervened and the referee checked his monitor before upgrading the card to a straight red.
Livermore had been off the ground and the decision was correct but Villa’s Kortney Hause was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card soon after despite planting his studs on Grady Diangana’s ankle.
Villa shrugged off the controversy to push for a second and Sam Johnstone gathered Grealish’s drive before McGinn headed wide after the break.
They thought they had found it with 19 minutes left when Watkins turned in Matty Cash’s cross, only for the striker to be ruled marginally offside.
Johnstone’s fine stop denied El Ghazi but he could only watch when Traore did seal the game with six minutes left, the forward passing the ball into the corner from the edge of the box.
El Ghazi then made it 3-0 from the penalty spot with two minutes remaining after Semi Ajayi’s clumsy foul on Grealish and there was still time for Johnstone to deny the midfielder a hat-trick, turning his sharp shot over.