Aston Villa produced a late turnaround to defeat its local rival West Bromwich Albion while Leeds United grabbed the advantage against Derby County as the first leg of the Championship playoff semifinals kicked off on Saturday.
After a frustrating first half by the home side where West Brom took the lead thanks to a terrible mistake by Glen Whelan, Dean Smith's side came back in the second half thanks to Conor Hourihane's fantastic goal in the 75th minute.
The goal gave Villa a bolt of energy and four minutes later, Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham made it 2-1 from the penalty spot after Jack Grealish was fouled inside the box. West Brom striker Dwight Gayle, on loan from Newcastle, was sent off after collecting to yellow cards, meaning he'll miss the second leg on Tuesday at the Hawthorns.
After the final whistle, Smith said he was obviously pleased with the win but not so much with how it was achieved. "I’m pleased we won the game, not so pleased with the performance,” he said. “We can be a lot better than that. We were nowhere near our best but found a way to win. We keep finding ways to win, and there’s plenty more in the locker.”
Aston Villa leads 2-1 vs. West Brom. The second leg will be played at West Brom on Tuesday, May 14.
Derby County 0 Leeds United 1
After a flat first half where both sides showed limited creativity when going forward, Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United took the lead in the 55th minute thanks to some slick passing and a wonderful left-sided cross from Jack Harrison, who fed Kemar Roofe. The club's top scorer didn't hesitate and made it 1-0.
Derby woke up after conceding and threatened the visiting team as Frank Lampard's side looked for the equalizer. The game heated when at first glance, Harrison seemed to have impeded Jayden Bogle's run in the box. The referee originally called for a penalty but after consulting with the linesman, he reversed his decision.
The result stayed 1-0 as Leeds will feel confident of its advantage when it welcomes Derby at Elland Road next week.
Leeds United leads 1-0 vs. Derby County. The second leg will be played at Leeds on Wednesday, May 15.