Villa players were furious after it appeared Jay Rodriguez’s equaliser went in off his hand

Jay Rodriguez bundled in a controversial injury-time equaliser with his hand as West Brom twice came from behind to draw a dramatic derby with Aston Villa.

Two Anwar El Ghazi goals – one wickedly defected off Ahmed Hegazi, the second a stunner – had looked set to lift Dean Smith’s Villa into the Championship top six and earn them a third-straight away win.

But, from Matt Phillips’ right-wing cross, Villa keeper Orjan Nyland was found wanting as Rodriguez bravely nipped in ahead of him and the ball bounced in off his hand while the striker was on the floor.

Villa players complained to referee Darren England it had gone in illegally but, after consulting with his fellow officials, he gave it.

The leveller took Rodriguez to 10 Championship goals for the season, matching his strike partner Dwight Gayle, who had slotted home Albion’s first equaliser before the break.

A second home draw in the space of five days moves third-placed Albion within four points of leaders Norwich City, while Villa remain eighth, now two points off a play-off place.

But Villa top scorer Tammy Abraham had only himself to blame for not putting the game to bed when, at 2-1 up, he missed two great chances, missing his kick from six yards out with only the keeper to beat before blazing a header over.

A derby full of incident

Villa took a hugely fortunate 12th-minute lead when Albion defender Hegazi got in the way of El Ghazi’s goalbound left-foot shot – and succeeded only in steering home a deft header, which totally wrong footed home keeper Sam Johnstone.

But the Baggies responded well and were level on 28 minutes when Harvey Barnes won his one-on-one duel with Alan Hutton down the Albion left, chipped to the right of the box and found Gayle who controlled before steering home a low right-foot shot on the volley.

John McGinn was close to restoring Villa’s lead when his powerful right-foot drive slammed against Johnstone’s left upright.

But, when his Villa team-mate El Ghazi came up with a strike of similar quality, this time there was no escape for Albion.

Jack Grealish set it up with a weaving crossfield run but, just when he was bundled off the ball looking for a free kick, the ball ran on to El Ghazi and he unleashed a 25-yard right foot thunderbolt that flew into the top right corner.

Gayle then headed over and it needed a great cover tackle to deny Barnes, before Villa should have sealed victory at the other end.

From Yannick Bolasie’s left wing cross, 11-goal Abraham somehow conjured up an incredible miss as he went to slide in with his left foot, got his long legs in a hopeless tangle and missed completely. And he then flashed a near post header high and wide.

Albion then survived a big penalty shout when Hegazi appeared to take out both Bolasie and Abraham.

But it was the Baggies who had the last word as, despite furious Villa protests it was handball, Rodriguez rescued a point.

‘He admits it hit his arm’

Baggies head coach Darren Moore said Rodriguez did not deny the leveller had gone in off his hand.

“Jay Rodriguez just threw himself at the cross,” Moore told BBC Sport. “He admits that it did hit his arm but he didn’t know much about it. And you’ve got to admire his honesty.

“I was cheesed off with a decision or two that didn’t go our way against Brentford on Monday night and I can understand Dean Smith will be unhappy, but to score as late as that in a game is like a win.

“I’m delighted with the way we kept going and got something from the game. The way Gareth Barry drove us on and showed his leadership was a credit to him.”

But Villa head coach Smith was unhappy with the officiating.

“The officials know they’ve made a mistake,” he added. “But we can’t change it now. Everyone in the ground has seen it except the people that mattered.

“We were fortunate for our first goal with the deflection but, in the second half, we’ve gone toe to toe with a team who were in the Premier League last season and created the better chances.

“We had chances to kill it off. Last week I was praising Tammy Abraham for his extendable legs. This time they got in his way. But that’s football.”

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