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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 August, 2004, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
West Brom 1-1 Aston Villa
West Brom goalscorer Neil Clement
West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa emerged from a full-blooded derby at The Hawthorns with honours even.

Olof Mellberg rose to meet Thomas Hitzlsperger's free-kick to powerfully head Villa in front on four minutes.

Neil Clement levelled with a similar goal, guiding in a header from Jonathan Greening's free-kick before the break.

Villa claimed they should have had all three points, as another Mellberg header looked to have crossed the line before Bernt Haas hacked clear.

West Brom's Premiership naivety showed as early as the fourth minute when Paul Robinson's needless foul on Carlton Cole gave Villa an early chance to apply pressure.

They took ruthless advantage as Hitzlsperger's left foot delivered the perfect ball in for Mellberg to meet and score only his third Premiership goal with a thumping header.

West Brom were then caught short-handed at the back as they sought an instant reply, and a swift break led by Hitzlsperger ended with Cole pulling his shot wide.

Mellberg showed his qualities at the other end where he firmly policed Kanu as the former Arsenal star tried to trick himself a yard of shooting space in the Villa box.

Olof Mellberg wheels away in celebration
Mellberg wheels away in celebration after heading Villa in front

Sloppy defending by Haas allowed Jlloyd Samuel to slip away and deliver a low cross for Gareth Barry whose shot was spilled by Russell Hoult, with Darren Purse completing the clearance.

From the resulting corner Mellberg again escaped his marker to bullet in a header which Hoult parried and Villa claimed the ball had crossed the line before Haas hacked it away.

Albion pricked Villa's bubble of superiority on 25 minutes when Kanu knocked the ball into Geoff Horsfield's path and it needed a stunning save from Thomas Sorensen to preserve the lead.

Clement's powerful free-kick - awarded for Martin Laursen's foul on Horsfield - squirted through the Villa wall but Horsfield's poor first-touch was just enough for Laursen to deny him a clean strike on goal.

Laursen expressed surprise when he was called for a foul on Horsfield on 38 minutes and that was compounded when Greening clipped in the free-kick and Clement rose to guide home a well-placed header.

Albion's tails were now up and Clement again rose highest to meet Greening's corner but this time was unable to keep his header down.

Villa carved out the first opening of the second half when Barry added his weight to the attack to ping in a cross which Cole headed wide.

Jonathan Greening congratulates Neil Clement
Jonathan Greening and Neil Clement celebrate Baggies's leveller

Laursen's foul on Horsfield gave Clement another chance to take aim from 22 yards and Sorensen needed to fling himself to his left as the Baggies defender curled his shot over the wall.

The ball seemed to be following Clement around and after he had won a corner with a surging run Purse planted a header wide as Villa's marking again went missing.

Villa failed to learn their lesson and Purse attacked another corner, only to see Sorensen hold his header on the line.

At the other end, Cole chested down Darius Vassell's cross and volleyed just wide, while West Brom substitute Zoltan Gera's slide-rule pass sent Horsfield away but, with only Sorensen to beat, he clipped his effort wide.

Villa threw Juan Pablo Angel into the fray with 20 minutes left but Gavin McCann came close to breaking the deadlock with a powerful shot that Hoult did well to claim as it came through a ruck of players.

Gera made a lively impression and he burst through and rounded Sorensen, only to be crowded out as Villa got shirts back in numbers.


West Brom: Hoult, Scimeca, Gaardsoe, Purse, Robinson, Haas (Gera 63), Johnson, Clement, Greening, Horsfield (Dobie 74), Kanu.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Moore, Albrechtsen. Booked: Horsfield, Johnson.

Goals: Clement 38.

Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney, Mellberg, Laursen, Samuel, Solano (De la Cruz 80), McCann, Hitzlsperger, Barry (Whittingham 81), Cole, Vassell (Angel 70).
Subs Not Used: Postma, Moore.

Booked: Laursen, Mellberg.

Goals: Mellberg 4.

Att: 26,601.

Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).




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