Aston Villa's five-match unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday afternoon as Craig Gardner netted against his former club to hand West Bromwich Albion a 1-0 home win.
Villa were fighting an uphill battle from the 22nd minute after Kieran Richardson, who was deputising for the injured Ashley Westwood, was sent off for a rash challenge on Stephane Sessegnon.
The game stayed deadlocked until the 72nd-minute, however, when former Villain Gardner drilled home from 10 yards to break the visitors’ resistance.
With the fit-again Fabian Delph coming on at the break for Charles N’Zogbia, the England international and Christian Benteke both had chances to equaliser in the final 15 minutes, but neither could find the back of the net.
Nevertheless, Paul Lambert’s side can still take a few positives away from the Hawthorns, especially the performance of Carlos Sanchez, who looks to be growing into the holding midfielder they’ve been missing for several seasons.
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The 28-year-old Colombian is by no means the flashiest performer, but he once again went about his job in exemplary fashion, marshalling things in front of the back four with impressive authority.
Having initially struggled to break into the line-up after his £4.7 million summer move from Elche, the World Cup has now started seven of the past eight matches, with manager Lambert tipping him this week for big things at Villa Park.
“He's going to be a really big player for Aston Villa. The good thing about Carlos is that he never hides from it.
“I don't mind him making mistakes providing he never hides from it. He wants the ball all the time and even if he makes a mistake he's ready to get it back.
“He's only been in this country for a short time and he still needs to adapt. But I believe in him. There's no problems whatsoever from me.”
Villa have certainly been crying out for a first-rate defensive midfielder since Stiliyan Petrov was forced to step away from the game, and now it looks like they may have finally found their man.