May 11 (Reuters) - Midfielder Conor Hourihane’s long-range thunderbolt and forward Tammy Abraham’s penalty helped Aston Villa defeat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the first leg of their Championship playoff semi-final on Saturday.
Substitute Hourihane sparked Villa’s second half comeback at home by finishing off a neat move with a powerful shot that flew past West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to make it 1-1.
Villa won a penalty four minutes later when midfielder Jack Grealish was brought down by defender Kieran Gibbs and Abraham, on loan from Premier League side Chelsea, held his nerve to slot the ball in for the winner.
Forward Dwight Gayle earlier put West Brom ahead in the 16th minute with his 24th goal of the season, latching on to the ball after a mistake by midfielder Glenn Whelan and firing a low shot past Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer.
Gayle, West Brom’s top goalscorer this season, was sent off two minutes from time for a second yellow card, meaning that he will miss the second leg at The Hawthorns on Tuesday.
Leeds United travel to Derby County for the first leg of the other playoff semi-final later on Saturday, with the return leg at Elland Road scheduled for Wednesday.
The winners of the two ties meet at Wembley on May 27 to decide the final promotion spot, with Norwich City and Sheffield United having already secured automatic Premier League places. (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru Editing by Christian Radnedge)