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Aston Villa passed the test of nerve from 12 yards to book their place in the Championship play-off final with a tense penalty shootout triumph over their West Midlands rivals.

Goalkeeper Jed Steer was the hero as he saved from Mason Holgate and Ahmed Hegazi before Tammy Abraham scored the winning spot-kick to secure a 4-3 success after West Brom had won 1-0 on the night.

Villa are back at Wembley on 27 May, 12 months after losing in the final to Fulham and they will await the winners of either Leeds or Derby, who meet tomorrow evening, as they attempt to return to the Premier League after a three-year absence.

For the supporters, the evening was all about glory and a place in the final, but both clubs knew the cost of failure and a hard summer of cost-cutting and rebuilding in prospect.

With each team including the maximum five loan players and several players out of contract in their matchday squad, neither dared to look beyond getting through this fixture.

In the world of West Midlands football, Villa’s biggest rivals are Birmingham, while West Brom joust with Wolves. Not that you would have known it before kick-off as the atmosphere fairly crackled with both local pride and a possible promotion spot on the line.

The first leg had turned dramatically in Villa’s favour as after trailing for nearly an hour, they overturned a 1-0 deficit and then saw Albion lose top scorer Dwight Gayle to a red card.

The absence of the 24-goal man was certainly a blow for the home side as they tried to do what only two of the previous 18 losing teams in the first leg of a Championship play-off had done in winning the overall tie.

The intent was there for a fast start from the hosts, but they simply weren’t allowed, as Villa stroked the ball around well in midfield, yet they blotted their copybook when Tyrone Mings was rightly booked for a deliberate handball as he arrived to meet a corner.

The Aston Villa players celebrate their shootout victory (Reuters)

However, their aggregate lead was wiped out just before the half-hour mark as Albion made the most of a set-piece. Holgate provided the long throw into the box, before centre-half Craig Dawson arrived with a perfectly timed run and header which went in off the far post to further crank up the noise.

A flying burst down the wing by Anwar El Ghazi straight after half-time was the visitors’ most incisive piece of play and Sam Johnstone in the West Brom goal took no chances as he dived to push the ball away from danger.

At the other end, Jed Steer was a relieved man when he played a goal kick straight to Jacob Murphy and had to rely on Mings getting back into the right place to block an effort that was heading towards the far post.

The game began to open up and Chris Brunt was not far wide with a curling shot from his left-foot while El Ghazi forced Johnstone to parry his low drive as the visitors’ attack came to life.

Jed Steer was the hero for Aston Villa (Reuters)

But they were then given a huge lift when Brunt was booked twice in less than 15 minutes for challenges on John McGinn and was given his marching orders by referee Chris Kavanagh.

With a man less, Albion were forced on the defensive and Villa had a chance to settle the tie but Johnstone produced an outstanding stop to deny substitute Albert Adomah after he had found a pocket of space in the area.

They dominated possession in the 30 minutes of extra-time, but apart from a late header from Keinan Davis straight at Johnstone, they could not find a way through their opponents’ massed defensive ranks, until penalties decided it in their favour. 



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