Harry Batters reports on Sunday’s gane with West Ham.
Earlier today, Aston Villa took on David Moyes’ West Ham United at the London Stadium in the Premier League.
West Ham made two changes from their team that lost 1-0 away against Sevilla on Thursday in the Europa League as Alphonse Areola and Nikola Vlasic were replaced by Lucasz Fabianski and Said Benrahma. Villa fielded an unchanged eleven from their side that ran riot in Yorkshire on Thursday night, seeing Leeds United off by three goals to nil.
Story of the Game
The first chance of the game went to West Ham. A good piece of play down the left hand side ended at Said Benrahma’s right foot who shifted it onto his left and let fly, however a good stop by Martinez kept him out. Seven minutes in, Michal Antonio shown his strength to Douglas Luiz before releasing to Pablo Forbals who dragged a shot wide. A few minutes after, Lucas Digne was substituted for Ashley Young after picking up a knock to the hamstring.
Villa’s first chance came ten minutes in when Ollie Watkins nicked the ball off Ben Johnson. A good little one two between himself and Danny Ings saw Watkins have a shot and Soucek block. Just under ten had passed since the first big Villa chance, and Ramsey made a really good run into the box and had a shot, however it was defended well by West Ham. Coutinho tried to tickle it in, but it went behind for a Villa corner which led to nothing. Just under half hour had gone, and West Ham were piling on the pressure. They made around four or five crosses in the space of about a minute and Villa struggled to clear the danger. Aaron Cresswell swung a very dangerous ball in which connected with the bandaged up head of Thomas Soucek, however he sent it wide of Emi Martinez’s post. Four minutes of stoppage time were added and Aston Villa were down to ten as Douglas Luiz was receiving treatment following a high foot from Manuel Lanzini who received a yellow card. However, Luiz was okay to carry on. The first half ended and the deadlock remained unbroken.
The second half began and the game was begging for somebody to take it by the scruff of the neck and seize the initiative. West Ham made their first change as Michal Antonio picked up a slight knock to the hamstring. Ukrainian international Andriy Yarmolenko replaced him and received a huge ovation from the stands following the invasions in his home country.
Fifty-five minutes in, John McGinn sent a low corner into the box and a good attempt from Danny Ings looked as if it was on it’s way, however West Ham keeper Fabianski tipped it onto his post. Shortly after, Aaron Cresswell was substituted for Ryan Fredericks following a knock. Just under the hour mark, West Ham had a corner which was whipped in towards Kurt Zouma who directed it goalwards, however an absolutely unbelievable save from Emi Martinez kept him out before Dawson put the rebound over the bar. With just over twenty minutes to go, Danny Ings was replaced by Leon Bailey, and less than a minute after, the deadlock was broken. Said Benrahma has it on the left hand side and cut inside Matty Cash before releasing it to Yarmolenko who took one touch, turned, shot and scored. An emotional moment for the Ukrainian. It left him in tears after a majestic reaction from fans and teammates. A moment that will remind fans why football is such a great sport. However, Villa had a mountain to climb if they wanted to make it four on the spin.
Just over ten minutes remained and Emi Buendia came on for Douglas Luiz. However, the change meant nothing, because shortly after the game was set and match. A great progressive carry from Declan Rice took McGinn, Luiz and Ramsey completely out the game before he released it to Benrahma who put it across goal to Pablo Fornals who swerved it in. Martinez got a touch, but not enough to keep it out. 2-0. Villa didn’t give up in fairness. Buendia had a chance as Bailey put a ball over the top to the Argentinian, however Fabianski made a good save. Villa got themselves back in it through Jacob Ramsey. Buendia released it to Ramsey on the edge of the box who finessed it past Fabianski. However, it was too little too late. Despite the six minutes of additional time, Aston Villa failed to find an equaliser, and West Ham ran out winners.
Man Of The Match – Declan Rice
In a game where Villa lacked physicality in the middle of the park, Declan Rice was the shining light, and he created the Hammers’ second goal with an unbelievable progressive carry taking McGinn, Ramsey and Luiz out the game. I for one will be shocked if he doesn’t leave for a big club this summer.
Biggest Underperformer – Douglas Luiz
An extremely tough decision as I thought every Villa player besides Martinez were average at best. Martinez’s save on Zouma earns a bit of credit. I feel a bit harsh on Luiz as it is clear he isn’t a holding midfielder and he continues to play there. He doesn’t have the physical nor off the ball attributes to be a good number six in Gerrard’s system, but until Nakamba returns, this will continue to be the case unless the manager gives young Tim Iroegbunam a chance. The holding mid problem should have been addressed in January, but for some reason our priorities in the market lay elsewhere.