Baggies undone by Benteke's late penalty
ALBION fell to a last-gasp 2-1 derby defeat at neighbours Aston Villa courtesy of Christian Benteke’s injury-time penalty.
The Belgium international slotted home from the spot in the fourth minute of added time after Ben Foster brought down Matthew Lowton in the area, ending Albion’s five-match unbeaten sequence.
Albion had looked destined for a point against their midlands rivals courtesy of Saido Berahino’s 18th goal of the season.
The 21-year-old nodded home from close range in the 66th minute after Joleon Lescott had headed Chris Brunt’s deep corner back across goal – sending the 2,900 travelling Baggies fans into raptures.
It came after a first half which Villa dominated, Gabby Agbonlahor breaking the deadlock in the 22nd minute – Albion’s first goal conceded in over seven hours of football - while Foster and Joleon Lescott both cleared off the line and Fabian Delph rattled a post.
Yet Albion will get an immediate opportunity for revenge when the two teams do it all over again on Saturday with an FA Cup semi-final place at Wembley at stake.
Tony Pulis named an unchanged starting XI for the third successive match, with strikers Berahino and Brown Ideye both overcoming the knocks which forced them off in the second half of Saturday's 1-0 win over Southampton.
The encounter started at a high tempo, both sides trying to feel each other out, largely in the middle of the park.
Yet the game exploded into life in the 14th minute when Villa literally came within inches of taking the lead. Foster spilt Agbonlahor’s effort from 12 yards through his body but managed to recover and grab the ball off the line in the nick of time.
However, the hosts did take the lead just eight minutes later.
Benteke flicked on Brad Guzan’s long goal-kick and Agbonlahor raced through to slot between the legs of Foster.
Albion, under sustained pressure, were close to going two-nil down just five minutes after as the lively Agbonlahor again raced clear and beat Foster, only for Lescott to come to the visitors’ rescue as he cleared off the line.
And the Baggies were again let off the hook in first-half stoppage time as Delph rattled a post with his curling effort from 20 yards.
Albion’s first chance of the encounter came in the 57th minute as Craig Dawson headed over Brunt’s inviting free-kick from six yards.
The chance sparked an Albion revival and the clash was levelled in the 66th minute.
Brunt sent a corner to the back post where Lescott was on hand to head back across goal and Berahino nodded in from close range, sending the travelling support into celebration.
Morrison soon found himself in space and squared for Ideye, who saw the ball nicked off his toes by Jores Okore, before Villa substitute Jack Grealish sent an effort straight at Foster at the other end.
The encounter looked to be headed for a draw until the dramatic injury-time action.
Foster failed to collect the ball and then in his attempts to recover duly brought down Lowton, leaving Benteke to convert from the spot.
Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Clark, Lowton, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley (Bacuna 77’), Agbonlahor (Weimann 82’), N’Zogbia (Grealish 59’), Benteke.
Subs: Given, Sinclair, Sanchez, Gil.
GOAL: Agbonlahor 22’, Benteke pen 90+4
BOOKED: Clark (foul 81’), Hutton (foul 88’)
Albion: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Lescott, Brunt, Morrison (Baird 90+1’), Yacob, Fletcher, Gardner, Ideye, Berahino.
Subs: Myhill, Wisdom, Pocognoli, Olsson, Mulumbu, Sessegnon.
GOAL: Berahino 66’
BOOKED: Yacob (foul 42’), Lescott (foul 52’), Gardner (foul 86’), Berahino (retaliation 88’)
Referee: Jon Moss (West Riding)
Albion star man: Darren Fletcher