Villa cling on at West Brom

Aston Villa are still embroiled in the Premier League's relegation battle after a 0-0 draw at Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion.

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The Baggies will feel aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty in the 49th minute, when Villa defender Alan Hutton blatantly handled from a powerful Liam Ridgewell header.

Albion continued to threaten and Peter Odemwingie had a shot brilliantly cleared off the line by a header from Carlos Cuellar in the 69th minute.

The game looked to be petering out, until a desperate finish at the Hawthorns. Both sides threw caution to the wind as several chances fell in the last five minutes.

Villa almost scored in the 89th minute, when Emile Heskey’s squared pass to Ciaran Clark was blocked by Jonas Olsson.

West Brom sprung back into life and Odemwingie had another chance as the ball fell to him inside the box, only to for visiting goalkeeper Shay Given to save brilliantly on the line.

The result means the Baggies will finish the Premier League season as the top side in the Midlands for the first time in 33 years. 

Chances were few in a scrappy first half. The home side had an opportunity to open the scoring inside the first ten minutes, when Shane Long’s powerful run led to a cross shot which wasn’t dealt with correctly by Cuellar. Odemwingie found the ball at his feet, but the Nigerian striker struggled to dig out the shot and it was well saved by Given.

Villa were looking most threatening down the left side, as Stephen Warnock and Agbonlahor regularly combined.

The first chance of the game for the visitors came in from an unlikely source in the 25th minute from Richard Dunne, who found himself on the right side of the Baggies box. The Republic of Ireland defender swung in a cross which was met by Chris Herd, only to see his shot well saved by Ben Foster.

Agbonlahor was looking dangerous with his pace, but too often his finishing was poor.

With half an hour gone in the first half, the out of form striker was played through on goal after shrugging off Albion defender Billy Jones. After impressing with his pace, his shot was poor and easily smothered by Foster.

Both sides were giving the ball away cheaply as chances petered out at the end of the first half. The second period started far more brightly, with the Baggies making the early running.

Baggies defender Ridgewell was incensed when, in the 49th minute, his header was cleared off the line by the hand of Villa’s Hutton. The Scotland international got away with it, and the visitors began to grow into the half.

In the 57th minute, Agbonlahor once again got free on the left side of midfield and beat Jones for pace. He cut inside and clipped a cross to Charles N’Zogbia, who hit his side footed shot at Foster.

Just over ten minutes later, Odemwingie once again found himself in space in the Villa box. He turned his man and unleashed a curling shot which had Given beaten but was cleared off the line by head of Cuellar.

The passing of both sides was becoming sloppy once again, with both parties appearing to look happy with a draw.

There was a final push though. In the final minute, a long ball up from the Villa defence caused confusion between Olsson and Foster in the Baggies box. Agbonlahor found the ball at his feet, lashed a shot towards goal which found Heskey, who passed for Clark. His shot was hit with venom towards goal, but Olsson threw his body in the way.

Albion sensed an opportunity with a counter attack, and just two minutes later, Odemwingie was left free in front of goal. The Nigerian striker hit his shot towards goal, but Given reacted quickly to get down and save on the line.

This was Villa’s 16th draw of the season, more than any other side in the Premier League this season, a situation that leaves them in a precarious position heading into the final two games of the campaign.  

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