match text commentary
as one of the oldest and most significant derbies in english football, there is always much local anticipation for this fixture. however, with both clubs having travelled quite a different trajectory over the last 30 years, it never quite achieves the intensity of either the second-city derby (villa v blues) or the black country derby (west brom v wolves), and has become more a measure of each club's respective status than anything else.
after a mutually mediocre spell of form in the late 1960s and early 1970s, that saw aston villa relegated to the 3rd division and the baggies stuck for several seasons in the 2nd tier, both sides were finishing top 5 in the league by the end of the decade. the villa, of course, won the league in 1980-81, followed by a historic EUROPEAN CUP final victory over bayern munich the following year. the baggies managed a 3rd place league finish in 1978-79 and were knocked out of the UEFA CUP on a late goal by red star belgrade in the 2nd leg of the quarter-final.
while neither side have ever reached these same dizzying heights since, the villa did manage to win a couple of LEAGUE CUP titles in the 1990s, and in becoming founding members of the PREMIER LEAGUE in 1992-93 were runners-up to manchester united in its inaugural season.
that same year, the baggies found themselves clawing their way out of the 3rd division (recently renamed FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 2) through a play-off final against port vale. this was followed, however, by a decade of struggle, avoiding relegation and consolidating mediocrity as a mid-table side in the 2nd tier.
while aston villa are one of only 7 clubs to have played in every season of the PREMIER LEAGUE, west brom did not manage to qualify for the top-flight again until 2002-03. it would take the baggies another decade before the possibility of competing in the PREMIER LEAGUE on a consistent basis would again materialize.
when the baggies defeated their closest geographical rivals at villa park in october of last year by a score of 2-1, it was three decades since the black country side had claimed a 1-0 victory in an away fixture of the LEAGUE CUP on january 19th, 1982.
the albion have actually dominated this fixture following 2008-09 when they lost both league matches by a score of 2-1 and were relegated again after a single season. but in 2110-11, following an early own goal on a scuffed clearance by albion defender, abdoulaye meite, the baggies fought back to beat the villa 2-1 at the hawthorns.
with albion's victory at villa park last year, the two other most recent occasions that these sides have met have produced draws. there was a decidedly lacklustre 0-0 result at the hawthorns towards the end of last season, and the villa avoided losing at home to the albion for a second season running through darren bent's late equalizer in this year's villa park encounter.
after going in at the break without either side having found the breakthrough, shane long put the visitors ahead in the 52nd minute after having a goal called back for off-side only a couple of minutes before. james morrison, breaking down the right flank, put in a perfect low cross that turned the villa defence inside out and left long to run onto a tap-in in the 6-yard box.
while it was honours even on the score-sheet, the baggies came away from this particular encounter more the worse for wear. club captain, chris brunt, pulled up with a hamstring injury and was replaced by graham dorrans in the 39th minute. while albion's trouble with the right-back position continued as billy jones came off with a knee injury just before the half, replaced by romanian defender, gabriel tamas.
the two sides will meet again at the hawthorns in january.