Aston Villa won their derby with local rivals West Bromwich Albion today, with two goals in two minutes clinching them a 2-1 victory. Martin O'Neill's side stunned their visitors with first-half goals from John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor at the Hawthorns. Albion hit back through James Morrison before the interval, but Villa had done enough to move into fourth place in the Premier League.
While supposedly bigger clubs like Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur languish at the bottom of the table, O'Neill has quietly built an impressive team that looks capable of pushing for a top-four finish. Albion manager Tony Mowbray already knows his side are likely to face a long battle to avoid a quick return to the Championship, and this result did little to allay his fears.
Mowbray was forced to make a late change when Leon Barnett was drafted in for Abdoulaye Meite, who suffered an ankle injury in the warm-up. It was Albion who had the first sight of goal when skipper Jonathan Greening's long-range effort forced Villa keeper Brad Friedel to make a sprawling save.
That lifted Villa from their early slumber, and Carew served notice of his aerial power with a header from Ashley Young's cross that drifted just wide with Scott Carson beaten. Agbonlahor was next to threaten with a quick break down the left flank, but dragged his shot well wide of the far post.
West Brom were forced to make a change after 20 minutes when Chris Brunt limped out of the action to be replaced by Kim Do-Heon. That was the signal for Villa to take control with a stunning two-goal blast in the space of two minutes.
Young's 27th minute free-kick was met by Carew again, and the Norway targetman's header beat Carson and bounced in off the far post for his fourth goal of the campaign.
Albion were rocked and they fell further behind in the 29th minute after an error from Barnett. He failed to control a long pass halfway between the penalty area and centre circle, and the loose ball broke into the path of Agbonlahor. The England U-21 international surged towards goal, and squeezed a shot through his marker's legs and into the far corner of Carson's goal from a narrow angle.
Just as Villa seemed in total command, Brad Friedel gifted Albion a lifeline in the 34th minute. The American should have been able to hold on to Robert Koren's low, long-range strike, but he allowed it to squirm free and Morrison alertly buried the rebound.
Albion could even have been level but for a fine save from Friedel, who partially redeemed himself by pushing over Kim's effort.
Former Lyon striker Carew was tormenting Albion's defence. He made a perfectly timed run on to Nigel Reo-Coker's pass and clipped the far post with a flicked shot.
Carew was even more of a handful with his strength in the air. He was inches away from increasing Villa's lead in the 53rd minute, when his header from Stilian Petrov's cross hit a post.
Mowbray sent on Luke Moore and the former Villa striker came close to making an instant impact when his goal-bound shot was blocked by Gareth Barry. Villa hit back again and Carson needed to make a sharp save to push Reo-Coker's drive around a post.