Aston Villa looked tired and lethargic at Villa Park this evening, as West Ham United cruised to a 3-1 win.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned home to Villa Park on this wintery Wednesday evening to face West Ham United – with both sides surprisingly pushing towards the European places this season after their relegation battle that ended the previous campaign.
Emiliano Martinez was the goalkeeper forced into the first save of the game as Ezri Konsa passed the ball directly into Soucek rather than clearing it, who was able to squeeze the ball towards Michail Antonio who’s half volley was saved well by the Argentine.
He was forced into another two saves by the 15 minute mark, as Jesse Lingard fired towards goal from outside of the box – which Martinez palmed away, before he was forced to deny Antonio from range shortly after.
Ollie Watkins had Aston Villa’s best chance of the half in the 26th minute as he cut in at the edge of the box, wrapping his foot around the ball and curling an effort towards the far post. Fabianski was beaten, but the ball struck the post and went out for a goal kick.
Martinez was called into action again six minutes later, denying a strong Creswell free-kick with a palmed save.
Both sides were evening each other out throughout the first half, with defences on top and attackers struggling to get clear cut chances on goal. The first half ended without any goals.
Dean Smith opted to make a change at the break, replacing the largely ineffective Anwar El Ghazi with Bertrand Traore.
Tomas Soucek, West Ham’s man in form, was the player to break the deadlock. Said Benrahma played a first time pass through to Soucek, perfectly weighted for the midfielder to run on to and fire into the bottom left corner past Emi Martinez.
They doubled their lead five minutes later in the 55th minute through Jesse Lingard. West Ham countered an Aston Villa attack, allowing Antonio to race down the right before playing a ball towards the back post. Lingard chested the ball down before striking the ball towards Martinez, who couldn’t hold on to the ball.
Tyrone Mings produced an incredible sliding clearance to stop Michail Antonio from adding a third after he had lobbed Martinez, with the Villa defender producing a James Chester-esque dive to kick the ball away from the goal.
Aaron Creswell was booked in the 64th minute for delaying Villa’s restart after Ogbonna had fouled Watkins out on the right.
Five minutes later, and Ross Barkley was replaced by Trezeguet. Douglas Luiz was booked for a late challenge on Jesse Lingard shortly after.
Morgan Sanson made his arrival with ten minutes remaining, his first appearance in an Aston Villa shirt – replacing Douglas Luiz.
Ollie Watkins picked up a lifeline for Aston Villa just seconds after Sanson’s arrival, making a beautiful one-two with Jack Grealish, running in behind the West Ham defence. He sliced home the ball past Fabianski and Villa were back in it.
Jesse Lingard crushed that lifeline just a minute later. He found himself in a similar position, but inverted, out wide on the right side of the box, and fired towards the goal. Martinez palmed it into his own net and Villa were two behind again.
A deserved defeat at Villa Park.