Christian Benteke earns Aston Villa their first win in 12 league games, and Sherwood his first as manager, with a 93rd minute penalty to make it 2-1 over local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
The game was nicely poised between the two West Midlands clubs, especially with the quarter-final of the FA Cup in just 4 days time where the teams were drawn in an identical fixture.
Add that to the pressure of Tim Sherwood still seeking his first win, not to mention Tony Pulis’s own away day hoodoo where he has failed to win in his current reign, the game was already a tantalising prospect before even taking into consideration the bragging rights that both sets of fans were so desperate for.
The game started at a frenetic pace, typical of a local derby, with passes going astray and neither team giving the opposition a second to settle.
The home team managed to forge a spell of dominance after some long periods of possession. The ball got worked to Agbonlahor inside the box who fired in a shot on the turn.
The save should have been comfortable for Foster, however the ball squirms between his legs before the goalkeeper just recovers with the ball all but completely over the line as the Goal Decision System displayed.
A few minutes later, Guzan punted a long ball up to Benteke who flicked it on for the Agbonlahor. The Villa striker had the beating of Lescott and managed to poke the ball through the keeper’s legs and send the home crowd into ecstasy. It was only Villa’s 10th league goal at home all season and Agbonlahor’s first in 14.
Villa then had a penalty shout turned down as Foster felled Agbonlahor after getting his shot away that was cleared off the line by Lescott.
This was followed by a great effort from Fabian Delph who cut inside from the left flank and curled a shot beyond Foster only to be denied by the woodwork.
The Baggies failed to make a single attempt on goal and Villa were left ruing the chances they hadn’t been able to capitalise upon as the referee blew the whistle for half time.
The two managers had two very different responsibilities at the break; Sherwood merely needed his team to continue as they were, whereas Pulis needed a reaction from his side after a lacklustre display from his squad.
The second half continued at the same pace, however West Brom were starting to fashion their own periods of possession and the game became much more even.
A Chris Brunt free-kick was met by Craig Dawson at the near post, who headed just over Guzan’s crossbar. Villa should have heeded the warning from this passage of play, a Tony Pulis side that is famously well-drilled in the art of set-pieces.
Sherwood showed some of the faith in youth that was evident in his term as Tottenham manager, boldly introducing the 19 year-old Jack Grealish barely before the hour mark into a game with so much riding on it, replacing the experienced, albeit particularly quiet, Charles N’Zogbia.
The game remained fairly uneventful until West Brom pulled one back through the ever impressive Saido Berahino. A deep corner to the far post from Chris Brunt was met by Lescott who nodded the ball down for Berahino in the six-yard box, who instinctively dispatched the ball beyond Guzan.
The equaliser visibly knocked the Villa players back who had enjoyed such long periods of dominance with nothing to show for it.
The game seemed inevitably heading for deadlock until deep into injury time. The ball sat up nicely for Delph who took a speculative drive from 40 yards. The blistering shot took Foster by surprise who spilled the ball wide. The ball was delivered back into the box by Hutton and not cleared properly by the Albion defence.
Matt Lowton rushed on to the end of the loose ball and just knocked the ball past a clumsy Foster who brings him down and the referee pointed straight to the spot without hesitation.
Christian Benteke stepped up to take the penalty and coolly finished after coaxing Foster into making the first move and placing it in the opposite corner; unbelievable display of composure in such a high-pressure situation.
The Holte End erupted and the Villa fans rejoiced as the referee mercifully blew the final whistle. The result appeared fair, but West Brom will feel aggrieved at the nature of the loss, setting up the big quarter-final between these two teams on Saturday for an even feistier affair.
Elsewhere, Sunderland and Hull City held each other to 1-1 draw, whilst Saido Mane scored the only goal for Southampton, beating Crystal Palace 1-0 to move up to fifth place.