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16:54 30th April 2011

Albion 2 Villa 1

TEN-MAN Albion defied the odds AND history to come from behind and beat Villa for the first time in 26 years.

Youssouf Mulumbu was the late hero, forcing the winner home six minutes from time - his sixth goal of an incredible season.

The Baggies had fallen behind in bizarre fashion after only four minutes when the unfortunate Abdoulaye Meite miscued Stewart Downing's cross into his own net.

But Albion battled back bravely and Odemwingie restored parity when he became the first Baggies player to score in four successive Barclays Premier League matches in the 60th minute - his 14th of the campaign.

However, Roy Hodgson's men's hopes of getting anything from the game looked bleak when Paul Scharner was dismissed two minutes later for a second bookable offence.

But Albion responded magnificently, incredibly grabbing a second goal and hanging on for a memorable win - making it one defeat in ten matches and ending Villa's four-game unbeaten run in the process.

Hodgson made three enforced changes from the Tottenham draw as skipper Chris Brunt (hamstring), Jerome Thomas (groin) and Steven Reid (calf) missed out through injury.

Gonzalo Jara, James Morrison and Simon Cox earned recalls while Jonas Olsson was handed the captain's armband in Brunt's absence. Ishmael Miller was named among the subs after returning from his loan spell at QPR.

Assistant Villa boss Gary McAllister made one change, with Gabriel Agbonlahor coming in for Emile Heskey, who was left out altogether.

The noise was deafening at kick-off as 14th entertained 13th - separated by only a point.

After a competitive opening, it was Villa who drew first blood in the fourth minute - thanks to a huge piece of fortune.

The ball could've gone anywhere as Meite stuck out a leg to block the dangerous Downing's centre - but the ball spun off the outside of the centre-half's boot and past the helpless Scott Carson.

Meite's footwear played a part in Villa's next attack when Stiliyan Petrov's 20-yard shot deflected off the Ivory Coast international. Carson managed to gather at the second attempt - just before Darren Bent could pounce on the loose ball.

Albion saw plenty of the ball in the opening minutes but with so many enforced changes, they lacked cohesion - particularly in their attacking play.

It wasn't until the 19th minute that they recorded their first effort on goal - but it was worth the wait.

After neat link-up play around the edge of the Villa penalty area, Mulumbu seized on Cox's lay-off and brought the best out of Brad Friedel with a 25-yard curler, which the American pushed away at full stretch.

Back came Villa on the counter-attack and Jara was relieved to see Ashley Young advance into the box and fire well wide after his mis-control from Downing's diagonal ball had set up the chance.

But Albion could have been level on 25.

Cox put Vela in the clear with a defence-splitting pass, only for the on-loan Arsenal forward to chip the ball over the on-rushing Friedel and the bar from an acute angle.

On 28, Morrison found Scharner unmarked at the back stick with a superb centre but the Austrian international's header was well off target.

Albion had built up a mini spell of pressure but it was Villa who threatened next, when Downing ran at former team-mate Nicky Shorey before firing into the side-netting from 15 yards.

Villa were a constant threat on the counter-attack and Carson did well to divert over Kyle Walker's miscued centre, with Bent and Ashley Young lurking in the box.

Scharner then had to make a last-ditch tackle to divert wide Agbonlahor's 18-yard snap-shot.

Albion dug in and had a chance of their own in the 44th minute when Scharner was fouled by Richard Dunne on the edge of the Villa box. Vela dinked the resulting free-kick over the wall - but also just over Friedel's bar.

Both teams had to make changes six minutes after the break, with injured duo Jara and Dunne being replaced by Gabriel Tamas and Ciaran Clark respectively.

Villa had started the half well but Downing smashed a presentable free-kick chance from 25 yards into the Baggies wall.

Albion had loud appeals for a penalty turned down in the 55th minute when Vela collided with Luke Young in the box - but referee Phil Dowd appeared to get it right.

Two minutes later, Scharner directed a free header from Morrison's free-kick straight at Friedel.

Villa then swept forward and Agbonlahor curled a decent chance well wide from 15 yards after charging past Tamas down the Villa left.

But it was Albion who troubled the scoresheet next.

On the hour-mark, Olsson headed Morrison's angled free-kick into the danger-zone and after Cox and Scharner had scrambled the ball goalwards, Odemwingie blasted into the roof of the net.

The stadium was rocking - but the home hordes were silenced two minutes later. Scharner was sent-off for a second bookable offence after tripping Petrov as he charged towards the Baggies box.

Predictably, with their man advantage, Villa began to get back on top and Meite was relieved to see the ball cannon off his back and over the bar from Downing's centre.

From the ensuing corner, sub Robert Pires was well off target with an ambitious 20-yard volley.

Morrison then came to Albion's rescue when he blocked Agbonlahor's 12-yard shot after Olsson had failed to clear Ashley Young's centre.

On 75, James Collins ghosted into the box but headed wide of the near post from Walker's centre.

Albion were finding it difficult to get out of their own half and ex-Villa keeper Carson kept them level eight minutes from time when he dived low to his left to turn wide Downing's awkward 20-yard drive.

But, against all the odds, Albion were ahead six minutes from time.

Cox did well to win the ball out wide and drive forward before slipping it through to Mulumbu, who spun Luke Young before forcing the ball past Friedel under pressure from Clark.

Cue total and utter delirium in the home sections!

It was all Albion hands to the pump during the final stages and Odemwingie went close to making it 3-1 on 87 when he collected sub Marc-Antoine Fortune's lay-off, drifted past Luke Young and fired just over from 15 yards.

Albion limited Villa to one effort during stoppage time - an Ashley Young free-kick which sailed high into the Smethwick End.

Despite only four added minutes being displayed on the fourth official's board, more than seven were played.

But Hodgson's men completed the task - and the final whistle sparked one of the loudest roars the famous old stadium has heard, signalling the end of 26 years of hurt against their claret-and-blue neighbours.

ALBION (4-4-2): Carson; Jara (Tamas 51), Meite, Olsson, Shorey; Vela (Fortune 76), Scharner, Mulumbu, Morrison; Cox, Odemwingie (Tchoyi 90+3). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Ibanez, Hurst, Miller.

VILLA (4-4-2): Friedel; Walker, Dunne (Clark 51), Collins, L Young; Downing, Petrov (Albrighton 85), Reo-Coker (Pires 68), A Young; Bent, Agbonlahor. Subs not used: Marshall (gk), Bradley, Delph, Cuellar.

GOALS: ALBION - Odemwingie (60), (Mulumbu 84). VILLA - Meite (own goal 4).

BOOKINGS: ALBION - Scharner (foul 9), Tamas (foul 69), Mulumbu (foul 84). VILLA - Agbonlahor (foul 73).

SENDING-OFF: ALBION - Scharner (second bookable offence, foul, 62).

REFEREE: P Dowd (Staffordshire).



PIC...YOU-SSOUF BEAUTY!...Mulumbu dinks home his late winner

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    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.